IT has come sooner than he ever expected but Sheffield Eagles prop Scott Wheeldon is starting to acclimatise to life in the “real world”.
That’s not Championship rugby per se; the former Hull FC and Hull KR forward knew he was signing up for that when he agreed a three-year deal with the South Yorkshire club ahead of last season.
Nevertheless, that was also a three-year full-time contract.
Following Sheffield’s financial problems, they are now a semi-professional outfit again – and Wheeldon is suddenly grafting as a plumber as well as in the front-row.
After months of uncertainty, it was only in the mid-January that the Eagles were actually finally able to confirm their place in the Championship for 2017.
Thankfully, they have survived those nervous times, but they have reverted to part-time status which has had a knock-on effect for many of their squad who play their first ‘home’ game against newly-promoted Toulouse at Wakefield Trinity’s Belle Vue tomorrow evening.
“It was a worry especially as the club had made the decision to go full-time just the year before,” Wheeldon told The Yorkshire Post, when explaining the Eagles’ predicament.
“Quite a few players jumped on board with that and then, obviously, it was cut short after just one year.
“It was a hard time. Some players departed and went to different clubs but the rest had a chat as a team and the players that stayed decided to stick it out to see where the club went.
“In fairness, it is starting to make some big strides and the future is beginning to look a lot brighter.
“Fingers crossed, hopefully a new stadium will be built in Sheffield in the next year or two and things will continue to improve.
“But, from my point of view, I have made that decision to go part-time and prepare to crack on with life after rugby.
“Personally, rugby’s all I’ve ever done all my adult life; I signed professionally straight out of school and went straight into it.
“There’s some part-time courses you can do while you’re playing but you need to experience things.
“I’ve got the opportunity now to go part-time as a player for a couple of years and do that having signed up for an apprenticeship in plumbing and heating. It’s going pretty well.
“It is about a 40 hour week really so it’s a full-time job really.
“We train three nights per week here – Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday – so the transition for me has been quite tough.
“I suppose it’s my introduction to the real world. It is tiring but hopefully I’m getting used to it.”
Wheeldon, who chalked up his 250th career game last season having debuted for hometown Hull FC in 2006, does not turn 31 until later this month.
He played a Challenge Cup final for Castleford Tigers as recently as 2014 and boasting someone of his experience and class is a real bonus for the Eagles.
Wheeldon appeared in their opening day 26-10 loss at Oldham last Sunday when, given all their recent upheaval, Sheffield gave a good account of themselves.
“It was definitely just good to get back out there,” he added.
“The club’s had a bit of a rebuilding process during the off-season and Tubby – our coach Mark Aston – has come up trumps by signing a few decent players.
“He’s managed to get everyone in and gelled and, although it was a disappointing result at Oldham last week, there was lots of positives for us considering we’ve had such a short off-season together and not much time to link up.
“It was good to be really in the mix for the result and, if we’d have done better in some short periods, we could really have come up with the win.
“We were definitely competitive and we’ll look to build on that against Toulouse.”
The newcomers made their own mark last week by vanquishing Batley Bulldogs 44-6 in France.
Wheeldon, who played for Hull in the 2006 Grand Final, conceded: “There’s still a little bit of the unknown about them in our league. But they steamrolled through League 1 last year and did really well.”