Nick Matthew Column: How Rugby League legend Ellery Hanley is an inspiration to me

Ellery Hanley in action for Leeds
Ellery Hanley in action for Leeds
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I am a big believer in the mental side of sport.

I work with psychologist Mark Bawden all year round. We will speak on the phone or by email every couple of days when I’m at a tournament. We have quarterly meetings to review my progress. Mark is that rock for me.

It is not just Mark who works with me on the psychological front. Former Rugby League legend Ellery Hanley has helped me for the past four years.

I met Ellery at the English Open when Sheffield used to stage the tournament at The Crucible many years ago. He took part in a celebrity exhibition match and we just got chatting and got on well.

Ellery is a very friendly guy. Every now and then, he would text me a few pearls of wisdom and now I normally work with him three or four times a year, although there has never been any official arrangement. Ellery is a busy man and travels a lot so I don’t use him every single week, but he supported me during the British Championships earlier this month.

Ellery is an inspiration to me. He is someone who has played sport at the highest level and is regarded as one of the best rugby league players of all time. He was mentally a very strong athlete. I feel very fortunate that he’s passing on his knowledge to me.

One of the great things about Ellery is that he’s very passionate about squash. He loves the sport. When I won the World Championships for a third time in Manchester in 2013, Ellery was with me every step of the way, cheering me on from the front row and was an integral part of my team.

If I’m playing a match at 8pm, Ellery will ring me at mid-day to check how my preparations have gone and that I’ve done everything right with my recovery. He will ask whether I had a good night’s sleep and what meal I ate before I went to bed. We will then go through a couple of key points ahead of the match I’m about to play.

Ellery keeps me so level headed. He doesn’t allow me to get ahead of myself for a split second. He gets the balance right between telling me to respect my opponent but to make sure I impose my game plan on them.

It works quite well using Mark and Ellery. They compliment each other nicely. They are both big on attention to detail and tell me similar things.

I’ve been on tour for 16 years so it’s good to occasionally hear a different voice. If you are travelling with someone 12 months a year like you see in tennis, it’s not a bad thing to hear a fresh voice from time to time and that’s exactly what I get with Ellery.