RL star’s family heartbreak

Wigan-born RL ace Jon Clarke filming an advert for the sporting charity State of Mind where he spoke of his anguish over his brother-in-laws death
Wigan-born RL ace Jon Clarke filming an advert for the sporting charity State of Mind where he spoke of his anguish over his brother-in-laws death

A Wigan-born former Great Britain rugby league player has told of the emotional turmoil he suffered after the death of his brother-in-law.

Jon Clarke had several up and downs in his career, but will look back at his playing days with fondness having collected Super League and Challenge Cup winners medals.

However, in his personal life a family tragedy almost forced him to hang up his boots.

He was speaking in a video produced by State of Mind and unveiled ahead of this weekend’s First Utility Super League round, which will be dedicated to the charity.

Clarke had to help nurse his brother-in-law, Wigan-born former rugby player Paul Darbyshire, through his battle with Motor Neurone Disease, which eventually claimed his life aged 41 in 2011.

He said: “You think you are OK and then something comes along and just wipes you out. For me, that coincided with when I left Warrington.

Paul Darbyshire

Paul Darbyshire

“I’d been there for 10 to 11 years, won a couple of things, played for Great Britain and to leave that was a culture shock, it was difficult.

“Only three or four months earlier, my brother-in-law Paul Darbyshire died of motor neurone disease, so I had helped nurse him through six months of the worst time of his life and even the worst time in everyone else’s life.”

Clarke, now 37, went on to join Widnes and endured what he calls his “worst season”.

“I didn’t want to go back to pre-season,” he said. “I had to tell (head coach) Denis (Betts) I couldn’t go back, I didn’t want to go back. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I used to sit in the corner in my kitchen and just cry because of what had gone on with Paul, and his kids and my sister that he had left behind. I couldn’t get my head round how unfair it was.

“I thought I was mentally tough until that came along and that just wiped me out until the next pre-season.

“I thought I’m not going to finish my career like this, and I knew Darbs wouldn’t want me to finish my career on a real downer. Second year I absolutely trained the house down in the off-season and I went and got player of the year.”

The 2016 State of Mind video includes Wigan Warriors players Willie Isa, Warrington’s Ryan Bailey and Jon Clarke, former professional Paul Highton, Steve Prescott’s wife Linzi and State of Mind trustee Jimmy Gittins.

Volunteers from State of Mind will present at all six Super League games this weekend.