Two X-League converts from the Warrington Warriors club feel that playing the game has had positive effects on their wellbeing.
Ryan Fairclough and Darren Whitfield have been playing x-League for just over a year, and both believe that the sport has brought back feelings of belonging and achievement that they had been missing.
“I’ve been playing X-League for a year now, after feeling the itch to play rugby again after 10 years away from the game,” Fairclough explained to XLeagueRL.com.
“I knew that my body wasn’t up for the physicality of club rugby league after a few years of not doing much exercise during Covid.
“After seeing X-League on social media, I dropped a message to Flan (Paul Flannery, Coach and founder of Warrington Warriors) to see if they were still taking on new players after seeing that the team had been assembled and competed in their first grand prix.
“He told me to come down and from session one it was evident that functionally everything I loved about playing rugby in my youth was there just without the hits.
“The skills involved in handling the ball, running a line and spotting the right pass all came back after years away.”
For Whitfield, the welcome he received from the Warriors combined with the special X-League ethos was a massive part of what made the X-League experience so positive.
“I have been involved in X-League for just over a year now,” he said.
“I searched online to play tag rugby as I’ve been a watching rugby for years but never actually played before.
“I stumbled across X-League and sent Flan a message asking for more details. A day later I was training with the lads in Warrington.
“I was quite nervous to start with as, with being an out of towner, I didn’t know anyone but everyone was really welcoming.
“I have suffered in the past with mental health issues which knocked my confidence, but X-League has really helped me feel good about myself and that I’m part of a team.
“The lads are great and I think it’s not just about playing the game, it’s about enjoyment and having a good laugh along the way.”
Fairclough also received a warm welcome from the Warriors, something that he found encouraging as he began what has become an exciting X-League journey.
“The team as a whole was very welcoming, making sure that my first sessions weren’t my last,” he said,
“On a personal level, just being part of a group of like-minded people did wonders for my mental health after years of issues with anxiety and depression, honestly making joining the Warriors as one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.
“In addition to this, leading out the lads for a charity game featuring team mates, ex-pros and players coming over from Ireland and ultimately raising the shield at the end was a personal highlight.”
Whitfield has also participated in international events, getting the chance to pull on an England X-League jersey, as well as representing his county side.
“My personal highlights are representing Cheshire X-League team in Sheffield and being selected to represent England as well,” he said.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunities which was come as a result of X-League and I’m really enjoying the journey.”
Fairclough believes that X-League is a great variant of rugby league that offers something a little different to the full-contact form of the game.
“I’d recommend anyone play X-League,” he enthused.
“It’s a great introduction or reintroduction to rugby league and another option for those who don’t want to or can’t continue to play full contact.”