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Stevie Ward in action with Leeds Rhinos in Warrington, U.K. on Feb. 2, 2019. Action Images/Ed Sykes/File PhotoED SYKES/Reuters

The Canada Co-Operative Championship Rugby League, which is hoping to help grow rugby league in the country, has named former Leeds Rhinos star Stevie Ward its director of welfare and safety.

Ward has also been appointed to the CCCRL’s board of directors.

Organizers of the CCCRL hope to kick-start rugby league at the grassroots level in Canada. Their goal is to eventually establish a 12-team league with both men’s and women’s teams with fans literally able to buy into the concept.

The idea is to start with a six-team league in 2023, with plans of increasing up to 12 teams — six men’s and six women’s — with representation from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.

Ward appeared in 115 games over nine seasons in Super League, making his debut with Leeds in 2012.

He won two Super League grand finals, two Challenge Cups, one League Leaders Shield, and was selected for the 2017 England World Cup squad. At 18, he was the youngest player in Super League history to win a Grand Cup Final.

Named captain of the Rhinos in 2020, he was forced to retire at 27 due to a series of concussions.

“I am proud to be a part of something that is building a league where the welfare and safety of the people on the pitch is paramount,” he said in a statement.

A mental health advocate, Ward created “Mantality” in 2016, an educational platform and podcast for men to understand and improve their own mindset and mental health.

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