In a new written series, we want to delve deeper into why our participants love Disability Rugby League. Over the past few years, our sides have gone from strength to strength, playing a curtain-raiser at both Old Trafford and Anfield, while we watched three of our PD participants embark on a trip of a lifetime to Australia, shown exclusively on Amazon Prime.
Please see our next Q&A with PDRL player Callum Parkinson…
How did you get in PDRL? – What is your journey?
When I was 13 and on my way home from rugby training, I was in an accident that caused a severe head injury. This led to months in hospital and there was even a time when I wasn’t expected to survive. After spending six months on the rehab ward, I then continued with speech and language therapy as well as physiotherapy for a further three years. This meant learning to walk, talk and do most things again. My accident meant I had both sides of my skull removed and replaced with metal plates. At this point, I was told that I could not play rugby again, which was devastating as my plan was to play rugby as a career. I started playing for a cerebral palsy football team and did that for a few years, but then lost passion for the sport and stopped playing. A couple of years later someone from the cerebral palsy football team got in touch and told me about Physical Disability Rugby League, which was something that instantly appealed to me. So, I got in touch with Wakefield Trinity PDRL, and it went from there. Certainly, the best thing I did!
How has the sport impacted your life, personally?
Playing PDRL offers me the opportunity to keep playing the sport I love. After having my accident at 13 and being told I would never be able to play again, but PDRL has made that possible. It’s great being part of a team and playing with guys with similar issues and have great ambition like me. I love training and always look forward to game day.
Are there any memories or times you look back with fondness or pride?
I feel proud every game I get to play, but one very special game was playing at Old Trafford before the Super League Grand Final. It was amazing feeling to play in that stadium and I also scored a try, so forever can now say ‘I scored a try at Old Trafford’. More recently it was amazing to take part in the Origin game, Yorkshire v Lancashire, and play with a mix of players from other teams.
You have recently been accepted into the England Community Lions PDRL squad – how proud a moment is this?
It is a really proud moment for me because ever since hearing about there being an England Lions Community PDRL team, I have been working extra hard in training to ensure I stay fit and working on my game to be the very best I can. To find out I had been selected and all my hard work had paid off was an amazing feeling and I cannot wait to represent England on the international stage.
You took part in the 2021 Grand Final – what was this like to experience?
Every game is great, but to make a Grand Final is amazing and there is always lots of energy and anticipation for the game, and, obviously, wanting to come out on top. Unfortunately, in the first five minutes of the game, I pulled my hamstring and had to come off. I was gutted not to play the full game, but the team played great, and I was supporting from the side lines.
When someone says, ‘PDRL’ what are your first thoughts?
Inclusion, togetherness, but, ultimately, Rugby League, just in a slightly different way but still with all the passion and skill of the professional game and more, I think.
What would/does success look like for you?
Success means doing my best for my team and teammates and supporting those around me. Obviously, being chosen to as part of the England team is great success too and really tops it off.
The Rugby League Disability set-up has gone from strength to strength in recent years – what is the next step?
It would be great to see more teams develop to widen the league and create more competition and opponents to play. Also, higher visibility to the games as I can ensure you, it is just as exciting as Super League, and I’m sure we could get a higher following and support for the teams.
If you would like to sign up for either our PD or LD Rugby League teams, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.