By NRL.com Staff (NRL.com)

While the stars of the NRL enjoy some of the best years of their life during their playing days, many don't properly prepare for the time when they call it a day on their first grade career.

For some, the sacrifices made pursuing their rugby league dream means that education takes a back seat, while others might struggle with mental health issues or even lose a sense of identity once outside of the walls of a football club.

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After finishing his storied career, former Dragons, Blues and Kangaroos centre Mark Gasnier transitioned into a media career with broadcaster Fox Sports, and also began working closely with the Men of League Foundation.

While Gasnier acknowledges there is still work to be done in helping recently-retired players transition out of the NRL system, he believes the NRL and Men of League are making huge strides in this area.

"My role with the Men of League, it's pretty diverse," Gasnier said.

"Men of League – along with the NRL – have put a big emphasis on players transitioning into retirement because there's so many different factors now, ranging from depression to education, to a lot of things like that. 

"I try and give the perspective of what it's like when you retire, things that you're faced with, but then solutions as to what you can do and where to go.

"It's more to give it a recently-retired player's input, specifically players in the one-five year category. 

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"We try and get the Players' Association involved now and things are really looking up.

"With the help from the NRL, there's a real acknowledgement that category in particular needs to be looked after, needs help and needs to pushed along in the right direction." 

The majority of players are involved in charity events during their careers, lending their profile to help boost a cause, often causes that personally affect themselves, their family and friends.

With so many different charitable organisations, Gasnier believes Men of League doesn't discriminate when it comes to who they support, instead getting behind the whole of the rugby league community who need their help.

"Men of League has a huge reach, and that was something we struggled with that... The perception was out there that Men of League was purely based to look after ex-footballers," Gasnier added.

"We actually help the families a lot more than we help the individual now.

"We look after a lot of women and children, particularly children sadly that suffer.

"A lot of families out there I'm communicating with that understand it might even be food vouchers instead of visits, equipment rather than cash funding. 

"There are so many variables to what we do.

"But we do have access now after being such a big organisation to provide them with right help to allow them relieve pressure on the family situation as well."

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