WITH high hopes of Central Queensland securing the latest franchise in the NRL competition local talents who have made their mark on the national stage in rugby league, have shed some light on life after football.
Former Blackwater junior, Brisbane Bronco and Queensland State of Origin representative PJ Marsh has returned to the CQ region of his youth to work in the mining industry after a recurring neck injury flared earlier this year, forcing his premature retirement from professional rugby league.
The 30-year-old was in Tieri last October coaching the Lake Lindsay Battlers in the Battle of the Mines charity football carnival and was clearly itching to pull on the boots.
Rugby league, he said, runs in his veins and it never was his intention to give the game away, but thinking about what might have been has been a struggle.
“It’s tough, I have my moments like today,” Marsh said from the Tieri sideline, watching fellow mine employees cart it up for another bone-crushing hit-up,” he said.
“Some days when I’m out at work listening to the footy on the radio, I think to myself that I’d love to be still doing it – it’s all I’ve done for the past 10 years.
“And of course, I would have liked to put my name down and played 100 per cent but I still get a bit nervous about being tackled.”
He said since relocating permanently to Middlemount with his family, the mining community has welcomed him in with open arms.
“At work it’s very much like a footy team, so that makes it a little bit easier,” he said.
“I’m very happy where I’m at now.
“I’m enjoying it and I’ll keep doing this for a while I think.”
Fellow Central Highlands’ schoolboy Tom Hewitt also had a starring role in the big league, spending a number of years with St George Illawarra Dragons and Brisbane Broncos before his body told him enough was enough.
“I had a good season with the (CQ) Comets last year but I decided to give it a break after being full-time for so long – give the body a chance to heal,” he said.
Now a qualified tradesman in the Central Highlands, Hewitt said the change to a full-time civilian career was a bit of a shake-up but was made a whole lot more smoother thanks to the assistance of former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett.
“He (Bennett) gave me the opportunity to do my apprenticeship and train full time,” Hewitt said. “It was pretty hard doing both but he made the transition a lot easier.”
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