Rugby star who works with London's homeless

 Report by Robert Doyle (published with permission of 'Catholic Times') Rugby League star Shaun Edwards was one of the toughest players around but, beneath the grizzly exterior, beats a Catholic heart of gold. The former Great Britain international retired from the game last year and uses his spare time to bring aid to the homeless, helping nuns from Southall's Missionaries of Charity centre for people on the streets of London. "I've been helping out in the soup kitchen, cleaning the place and going on night runs, taking tea, sandwiches and blankets to the homeless and just talking to them and listening to what they've got to say," said the Wigan-born 33-year-old. "People end up on the streets for all sorts of reasons, they drink a bit too much or fall on hard times. The main thing is not to be judgmental, you never know what people are going through." Shaun, the most decorated player in the game's history, shocked Super League fans when he announced his retirement. The half-back, who picked up the game's coveted Man of Steel award in 1990, was doing wonders for Richard Branson's struggling London Broncos, but decided to quit while at the top. Many expected him to walk straight into a lucrative coaching job, but Shaun decided he needed give himself time to travel and examine his faith: "I went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and meet two Irish Franciscans who I got on with really well. I told them I'd like to do something to help the poor. One of them, Fr Eamonn O'Driscoll, suggested I offer my services to the sisters. I just went down and took it from there." Shaun began his rugby career with St Mary's Catholic School team and went on to represent Wigan Schools before signing for Wigan on his 17th birthday. His try in the first half of the 1995 Premiership Final at Old Trafford completed 250 tries for Wigan in over 400 appearances. Overall, Shaun appeared in 39 major finals for Wigan, winning in 32 of them. He even used a change in the rules of Rugby League to play for Ireland in the Sky-TV world championships. After almost a year off, the shaven-headed star is now heading back to the north of England where he will consider a number of coaching offers, although his ambition is to coach the Great Britain team. He will be welcomed back at St Mary's Parish, Wigan, by Fr John Johnson, who is a big fan of the home team's former skipper. Fr Johnson said working for the Missionaries of Charity was typical behaviour for Shaun who was awarded the OBE in 1996, but revealed that his early efforts may not have been a great success: "They asked him to cook some mashed potatoes and it took him a while to work it out. He said his mum normally did that sort of thing."

Share this story