Building a career alongside semi-pro sport

Greg Worthington is a Rugby League player turned security operative. His previous clubs include Huddersfield Giants, Toronto Wolfpack, and Halifax Panthers. After Toronto Wolfpack withdrew from the Super League due to financial problems during Covid, Greg made a choice to locate back to the UK and play semi-professionally to build his career in security which can be a great choice for athletes choosing a second career.

When Toronto left the Super League I was left with eight months of no wage, my wife was on maternity leave, and I was in a position where the other full-time clubs couldn’t offer a good enough contract. I’d already done a full welding apprenticeship when I was younger, but welding wasn’t something I wanted to go back into. During Covid I’d touched base with friends who worked in security, all former rugby league players, who explained to me the ins and outs of what they did in the security industry and I saw it as being a good fit.

I did a security course and took a semi-professional position at Halifax Panthers. Becoming a semi-pro allowed me to free up time to get security jobs in. Having said this, even though you’re semi-pro, the clubs at the top of the Championship have a full-on schedule. They’re cramming in effectively a full-time schedule but in the evenings.

Life in the Championship

When I was at Halifax, they’d train Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and play Sunday. You had to be at training 5.30-9.30pm those evenings, having done a full day’s work on top of that! It can be difficult to fit in work but I have been able to take on some jobs whilst still playing, which has got my foot on the door. I’ve laid some solid foundations and networked with some really good people in the industry, which is going to provide me with work now that I’ve called it a day with rugby.

I decided to move into semi-professional rugby for a few reasons. I wasn’t ready to finish playing, and there were some good opportunities financially at semi-pro level. It freed up my schedule enough to lay foundations in the security industry and get around the right people. That transitional period has left me in good stead because it means once my career is over I’m ready to hit the ground running.

I’d had a period playing semi-pro at the start of my career. I was released by Huddersfield after four years with them and I didn’t have an agent. That’s when I took on a welding apprenticeship and played semi-pro alongside. I finished my apprenticeship then went back to full-time rugby, so I have the experience and I knew that blueprint works. You can still do education alongside full-time rugby, but you won’t get the work experience that you can do when you are only playing part-time.

I’d been there before

When the Toronto situation happened, I applied that blueprint again. As a young lad, your goal is to play at as high a level you can, as a full-time athlete.

But sometimes you can take a step back in order to move a couple of steps forward. After I got released from Huddersfield and did my welding apprenticeship, that gave me a world recognised qualification in welding. Whatever happens with rugby, I know I can work in that industry: it’s a safety net. The security qualification so I have is more strings to my bow.

People don’t always see playing semi-pro as an avenue, whereas for me I’ve earned pretty well when I’ve been playing semi-pro and I’ve had the hours in the day to put my energies into something else as well. It’s a side of the sport that not everyone considers whereas it’s worked so well for me.

Making the transition from sport to full time working life as seamless as possible is all about preparation. I’m a massive advocate, I’m trying to tell the young players to educate yourself and make that transition as seamless as you possibly can.

I’ve been blessed, my body’s held up and I’ve had a long career – 14 years in professional sport. I’ve been quite lucky. Not always the case, is it? Injuries can come at any time! I am blessed to have had a great career and I’m excited for the next step.

Why security?

After chatting to fellow former league players Alex Brown and Matty Blythe they emphasised the transferable skills you gain as an athlete, and how it can be applied not just in security but to everyday workplaces. Certain attributes instilled in us transfer well to industry. And they found that particularly within the security industry our skills are relevant and transferable.

Particularly the punctuality of constantly being on time, as a professional athlete you always get there early, your preparation is key to everything you do – it’s not just game day, everything behind the scenes is the lead up to everything you see on the pitch.

In security work when you’ve got a live operation, there’s countless hours that have gone into that behind the scenes. It’s a similar format to how we prepare for a game.