Warrington’s Jon Clarke on dealing with change

The biggest change Jon Clarke had to deal with during his career was leaving Warrington after 11 years.

Clarke, now 37, made more than 230 appearances for the Wolves before spending the final three years of his career at Widnes.

A Great Britain international, Clarke had several up and downs in his career, but will look back at his playing days with fondness having collected Super League and Challenge Cup winners medals.

Clarke said: “You think you are OK and then something comes along and just wipes you out.

“For me, that coincided with when I left Warrington. I’d been there for 10/11 years, won a couple of things, played for Great Britain and to leave that was a culture shock, it was difficult.

“Only 3 or 4 months earlier, my brother-in-law Paul Darbyshire died of motor neurone disease, so I had helped nurse him through six months of the worst time of his life and even the worst time in everyone else’s life.

“I went and joined Widnes and that first season there was the worst season I’ve played of rugby league.

“I didn’t want to go back to pre-season. I had to tell Denis (Betts) I couldn’t go back, I didn’t want to go back. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I used to sit in the corner in my kitchen and just cry because of what had gone on with Paul, and his kids and my sister that he had left behind. I couldn’t get my head round how unfair it was.

“I thought I was mentally tough until that came along and that just wiped me out until the next pre-season.

“I thought I’m not going to finish my career like this, and I knew Darbs wouldn’t want me to finish my career on a real downer, because that first season at Widnes was tough, we got beat virtually every week, I was captain, and all my performances were terrible.

“Second year I absolutely trained the house down in the off-season and I went and got player of the year for the club that year.”

One of the main things that former players identify as something they miss from the change of being a player, is being part of the camaraderie of a team.

Clarke has been able to retain that, through his strength and conditioning roles first at Widnes and then Warrington since his playing career came to an end in 2014.

“I have found it quite easy. I think the amount of work I did while I was playing has made the transition as smooth as possible.”

That was by and large down to Clarke’s passion for strength and conditioning, which saw him earn a Masters degree as well as establish his own business in the field. He was ready for when he finished playing.

“I’m pushing it onto our senior players now, never mind the younger ones. I won’t name names but there are a couple of lads that I’m not sure what they’re going to do when they finish playing.

“My advice is to find something you’re interested in and go and seek out further education or involvement with it.

“Go and get a good grasp of what you want to do when you finish playing. I can honestly say that from my point of view, the transition has been almost seamless.”

The State of Mind themed round runs from 7-10 July, and will see volunteers from the charity promote mental health awareness at all six games across the weekend. For more information, visit www.stateofmindsport.org.

You can donate to the State of Mind charity by visiting: https://www.justgiving.com/state-om/donate/

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