Rugby League Cares

Rugby League Cares (RL Cares) and the Carlton Academy Trust (CAT) are delighted to share details of an exciting partnership designed to help players, past and present, make a successful transition into new careers.

RL Cares is an independent charity that delivers player welfare services to both male and female rugby league players. One important feature of the charity’s function is to help players gain the qualifications and skills they need to become as successful off the field, as they were on it.

The partnership will see RL Cares and CAT work together to offer:

  • advice and guidance to players wanting to pursue careers in education;
  • work placements and taster opportunities for players;
  • mentoring from executive leaders within the trust;
  • access to employment opportunities.

The partnership has already seen several elite performers transfer the diverse range of skills they developed throughout their playing careers into an education setting.

Current England Women rugby league internationals Shona Hoyle and Kelsey Gentles both now hold support staff roles at Carlton Bolling Academy and are already having a significant impact on the lives of the young people they work with.

Shona, who currently plays for Leeds Rhinos and played for England in the Rugby League World Cup 2022, said: “I’m very grateful to CAT and RL Cares for this amazing opportunity. RL Cares and CAT worked closely with RFL’s Head of Women’s Pathway, Stuart Barrow to identify players with an interest in working in education. After meeting with the team from CAT I knew I had an amazing opportunity that would allow me to develop my professional career alongside my playing career with St Helens and England.”

York Valykrie star Gentles, missed out on World Cup selection in 2022 after suffering a knee injury earlier in the season, and instead commentated on both the men’s and women’s tournaments with BBC TV. Kelsey said: “I knew that I wanted to work in schools and was working in a pupil referral unit whilst completing my degree. After meeting with CAT, I knew they would support me both on and off the field.”

The unique partnership has also seen former Bradford Bulls player and Dewsbury Rams assistant coach Paul Mennell, appointed as Head of School at Thorpe Primary School.

Paul had already started to carve out a career in education before RL Cares introduced him to CAT. Following a formal process, Paul has been head of Thorpe Primary School since September 2022 and is now an integral part of the long-term future of the trust.

CAT Chief Executive Officer, Adrian Kneeshaw said, “This unique partnership has enabled us to target people with the skills needed to thrive in education. Rugby League Cares has a fantastic welfare programme that carefully identifies players who would thrive in education. We then put an enhanced support programme around them to support their development to reach their full potential”.

RL Cares Transition Manager Francis Stephenson said: “We would like to thank and congratulate the team at CAT for their foresight in recognising the qualities rugby league players can bring to the education sector.

“Throughout their playing careers, players are immersed in an environment where structure, discipline and the importance of teamwork are critical. The skills they learn as athletes are both valuable and transferrable and it is fantastic to see players like Shona, Kelsey and Paul thrive within the Carlton Academy Trust.”

If you are a current or recently retired player and would like more information on career opportunities in education with Carlton Academy Trust, please contact Francis Stephenson via

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