English former professional Rugby League player and Sky Sports commentator, Barrie McDermott discusses how demographics and his group of friends guided him into choosing to play League over Union as a teenager, having been interested in many sports. December 5th, 1987 is the ‘greatest moment’ of Barrie’s life, which was the day he lost an eye at the age of 15 after a freak accident with an air rifle. He describes that adversity forced him to build character, form a close bond with his family and it did not stop him from wanting to play and excel at Rugby League.
This ‘life lesson’ as Barrie puts it, saw him go on to represent the Rugby League teams of Great Britain, England and Ireland, which he explains the reason for playing for all three national sides and the highlight of his international career. When it came to club Rugby, Barrie played for League sides Oldham, Wigan, Bramley and Widnes Vikings, although an 11-year playing career for Leeds Rhinos is what stands out. He touches on his experiences at each club and why aspiring professional Rugby players should consider playing League instead of Union. Barrie did not leave Rugby League as soon as his playing days were over, as he stayed on at Leeds Rhinos for a further 10 years as the club’s Business Development Manager, Head of Youth Development and then Head of Player Welfare. He admits that the sport transitioned him from a player and into the workplace and offers current professional players some valuable advice on how to approach their own career transitions.
Barrie joined AFEX, which are the world’s largest non-bank providers of foreign exchange solutions, in 2016 as their Brand Ambassador and he speaks about his immense enjoy for working at this company and how his enthusiasm and skills picked up from playing Rugby allows him to succeed in the business environment. Made for Rugby is Barrie’s fascinating autography about his Rugby career and he mentions that the reason for writing the book was to show a different of him as a person and not the rogue persona he was known for as a professional player. He also highlights his involvement with charitable initiatives, which saw him form part of a team of climbers that set a new world record by playing Rugby on Mount Kilimanjaro and climbing to the Mount Everest Base Camp. Barrie insists that his physical and confrontational style as a Rugby League player is not how he approaches his business career and advises players on the brink of retirement, who are looking to take up a career in business themselves, that they need to adapt to the corporate environment to make it a long and successful journey.
“I feel desperately sorry for a lot of the people that haven’t worked, they become a professional sportsman, Rugby League or Rugby Union player, straight from school. They leave at 32 years old and that institutionalised mentality is lost and they don’t know how to manage their time, they don’t know what to do to pay the bills and we are better than we ever were in the Super League, but we need to work harder and we need to give players a skillset.” – Barrie McDermott (Brand Ambassador at AFEX / Sky Sports Commentator / Former professional Rugby League player)