Richard Marshall says he feels “privileged” to work in rugby league after tasting a life working as a roofer in the months before he signed a professional contract.
Salford’s new coach had stints as a player with Halifax, Leigh and London Broncos, but before signing for Halifax in 1996 he was working with his father as a roofer.
The 45-year-old says one particularly cold morning convinced him to give his all to playing rugby league professionally.
“I have dug a few holes in scrapyards and I was a roofer with my dad,” Marshall told Sky Sports’ The Coaching Manual.
“I remember being on a scaffold one January. I had just left college and was just about to sign in rugby.
“My hands stuck to the scaffold pole and I thought ‘You know what, this isn’t for me, I’m going to have a go at the rugby’.
“I had 12 or 13 good years, I played over 200 games. It was fantastic, a real good grounding. I would have been a scaffolder otherwise, or a roofer.”
Marshall says the experience taught him to appreciate being able to turn his passion into a full-time job, and he still feels that way today.
“These are positions of responsibility and it’s a privilege to work in our sport – in any sport to be fair,” he said.
“We all could be digging holes in scrapyards – there’s all these other things that we talk about. We’re so privileged and blessed in rugby league.
“It’s an honour to be working with these players day in and day out. Back in the day I still had that desire, that passion, which I have now. I think it’s important that you keep that.
“You’ve got to keep a smile on your face as well. It’s a rocky path, there’s ups and downs along the way, and I think it’s important that you learn each and every week.”
It hasn’t always been easy for the Red Devils coach. He says he felt intimidated when he first arrived at Warrington as an assistant coach, and had to ‘teach’ legends of rugby league how to play the game.
“It was daunting at the time, going into that environment,” he said. “My playing background was slightly different to a lot of the players who were working at Warrington.
“You have to earn your stripes. Even if you’re a top player, you have to earn your stripes. You have to earn the players’ respect.
“I remember going in one morning and I’m talking to Arian Morley and I’m thinking ‘I’ve got to do some tackle technique with Adrian Morley shortly, how the hell am I going to teach Adrian Morley tackle technique?'”
There were also difficulties off the field for the 2015 Championship coach of the year. Marshall’s wife was diagnosed with cancer early in his coaching career, and dealing with that as a family helped give him perspective in his job and in life.
“In 2012 my wife found a lump in her breast,” he said. “It was a tough time. It was diagnosed as breast cancer and she had to have surgery and six months of chemotherapy.
“I was at Warrington at the time, I was assistant to Tony Smith, and Tony was really good with me.
“That was a really tough time for me as a coach and Tony handled that really well.
“Listen, rugby’s a game. It’s not life and there is a lot worse happening to people out there. But at the same time it is important; it pays the mortgage, and more than that, it’s such an enjoyable sport.”
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