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Mind guru aims to help Bradford Bulls on and off the pitch
The Bulls’ backroom team has expanded further with the appointment of a club psychiatrist – believed to be the first position of its kind in world rugby league.
The highly-regarded Dr Allan Johnston will provide Francis Cummins’ players with expert advice and support on their mental well-being and resilience.
Dr Johnston, a keen Bradford fan who hails from Dewsbury, will work closely with Cummins’ squad one day a week at their Tong training headquarters and every matchday.
The 35-year-old’s role will increase the level of care afforded to the Bulls players and complement the player welfare team of chaplain Warren Evans, welfare manager Stuart Duffy and education officer Paul Fisher.
Dr Johnston – whose mantra is ‘happy people equals successful people’ – said: “The aim of me joining the team is to help the Bulls develop and deliver the best welfare service in world rugby.
“It’s true to say that I’m the only club psychiatrist in Super League and, as far as I’m aware, I might be the only one in world rugby league.
"Evidence for the success of this model can, however, be found in other sports including Olympic cycling, world snooker and Premier League football.
“I’m so passionate about rugby league and mental health. To be able to work in both areas here at Bradford, the club I’ve always supported, is fantastic and I’m very lucky.”
Dr Johnston’s role at the Bulls will complement his work as a consultant psychiatrist at Derbyshire Health Care and NHS Foundation Trust, associate psychiatrist to the State of Mind charity and honorary clinical lecturer at the University of Sheffield.
Dr Johnston explained: “My role is equally divided between player welfare and player performance, so I have a foot in both camps.
“But it’s mainly welfare – getting to know the players and understanding their stresses and pressures.
“Mental health issues affect one in four of us and issues over personal finances, bereavement and relationship changes can affect any of us at any time. The players are equally likely to experience any of these things.
“They are normal human beings but they are living their lives in the spotlight.
“Part of my role is to help them cope with these issues because well-being and performance are linked.
“One of my mantras is ‘happy people equals successful people’.”
Dr Johnston will receive a certain amount for his work but has requested that he is only paid the full figure if the Bulls reach the play-offs.
He explained: “Because I’m here to prove myself – and not just make up the numbers – I’ve asked for a big chunk of my pay to be given to me only if we make the play-offs.
“I set up the contract like that because I want people to understand that I’m not here to just have a nice chat.
“I’m here to make a difference so I get a big chunk of my pay if and when we make the play-offs. That’s how I wanted it to be.”
A number of Bulls players have already undertaken sessions with Dr Johnston and John Maruanka, a Bradford-based psychologist who works closely with Bradford City’s players.
Head coach Cummins said: “I’m looking at all the one per-centers and player welfare is a huge thing.
“I said when I took the job that we need to make sure we look after the players physically and would show the utmost professionalism in that.
“We need to improve them as rugby league players but we also need to look after them as people.
“If we do that then we will grow the club. Allan will be there every week on a Friday and it’s going to be just part of normal training.
“That should lead to individual goal-setting and working on that mindset of achieving.”
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