Hard work, determination and resilience are all qualities needed in life to succeed and Wakefield Trinity PDRL captain, Darren Dean, has them in abundance.
Staring adversity in the face and pushing forward is a daunting task and throughout a life that has had its ups and downs, Darren is finally where he wants to be, on a rugby league field.
After been diagnosed with Leukemia at a young age and being told he would never be able to play the sport he loved again, Darren’s life took another turn for the worse on a trip down under.
After coming home from a night out, Darren was beaten up and left for dead, leaving him with severe head injuries, to the point where he had to re-train his brain to be able to function in day-to-day life.
For a man who had to deal with setbacks head-on throughout his life, he pushed through the metaphorical boundaries and came out the other side, completing his training to become a qualified personal trainer.
That wasn’t his passion, though. For Darren, whether he could play or not, rugby league was always a big part of his life and being unable to play the sport was eating him up inside.
That’s when his wife discovered PDRL. Physical Disability Rugby League was set up to offer the opportunity to players with physical disabilities play their sport. Following the creation of the game in 2018, the Wakefield Trinity Community Foundation got involved, creating a team of their own to represent the club.
Now, just two years on, the Trinity Foundation has smashed the barrier, promoting the game on the main stage at Old Trafford, whilst also raising funds to send three lucky individuals on a trip of a lifetime to Australia.
Looking back at them special two years, Darren believes that finding the PDRL game has filled a void in his life and is grateful for the opportunity to play the game he loves once again.
Most of the time, playing a sport doesn’t just have physical benefits, but mentally and socially, too. While many disabled people may feel alone, it can sometimes be meeting similar people that can make the difference.
Darren, who now works within the ‘Health & Wellbeing’ strand of the Foundation, explained that ever since he got involved with Trinity and PDRL, the social interaction has made a world of difference on his mental health.
Set up to improve the lives of others, in recent years, the Wakefield Trinity Community Foundation has gone from strength to strength. Now boasting a Physical Disability (PDRL) and Learning Disability (LDRL) Rugby League team, a Women’s Football team as well as a Trinity Ladies rugby league side which competed in the Women’s Super League in 2019 and who were winners of the Women’s Championship in 2018.
As a result of all their great work in the Wakefield region, the club was nominated for the 2019 Super League Foundation of the Year award recognising the top three Foundations in the top-tier, alongside Warrington Wolves and St Helens.
All this recent success on and off the field is a detriment to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, hard work in which Darren is eternally grateful for.
“First of all, the Wakefield Trinity Foundation has helped me grow as a person,” Dean added.
“As a one-on-one personal trainer, the club has provided me with the ability to get out there and experience all walks of life and opened my eyes to those who need that little bit of help.”
“Working with the foundation over the past couple of years has broadened my horizons and allowed me to see how much help we can offer to everybody in the community and it is a fantastic thing to be involved in.”
One of the projects mentioned earlier is the trip down under, where Darren, Connor Lynes and Ben Nicholson raised funds to travel to Australia to spend some time with the Gold Coast Titans.
Planning this trip meant that the club could reach out to a new market and have a real impact in helping raise awareness of physical disability on a global scale and after catching the eye of Fulwell 73 productions, the wheels were in motion to get the whole trip filmed.
An Amazon Prime documentary was in the pipeline and after months of waiting the 23-minute screening aired last Thursday. This finally allowing PDRL and the Wakefield Trinity Foundation the global exposure they longed for and Darren believes that spreading the word of PDRL is exactly what is needed for the growth of the game.
“I know that James (Stephenson) and Craig (Shepherd) have project ideas, the problem is getting these initiatives to a wider audience and make a big difference,” said Darren. “I found out about the game through national television (Lorraine) and we do have Adam Hills but there are still too many people who don’t know that it is there.”
“For us in England, we have moved a lot faster in issuing the word about PDRL than Australia, who have been playing the game a lot longer.”
“As fast as we move and as many teams as we get together, we still know that there are a lot more people who don’t know about the game.”
To the majority of people, rugby league is just a sport. However, to the players of PD and LDRL, it is much more than that. Watching this documentary will give the viewer a taste of the will players show to get into physical disability rugby league and the hardship that they have faced to play the game they love.
Darren, now captaining the Trinity side, believes that, disabled or not, there is something out there for everyone, they just haven’t found it yet.
“The most important thing the viewers will learn from this documentary will be accessibility,” he explained.
“I am a big believer that there is something out there for everybody and all you have to do is find out and it is about getting that message out there to a national and global audience.”