He may not be the biggest or fastest player on the pitch, but there’s certainly no missing Isaac Pickett when he’s out there playing for Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) team.
And it’s not just due to the bright red shorts he wears either. It’s because the 23-year-old gets absolutely everywhere on the field.
The same work ethic and drive that makes him one of the hardest working players in the Rhinos PDRL team has undoubtedly been part of journey to overcome AVM, a rare condition which causes a malformed collection of blood vessels in the brain, and get back into playing rugby league.
A keen sports fan growing up, Isaac suffered his first brain haemorrhage- a type of stroke- back in 2004. However, it wasn’t until after his second stroke in 2011 that he began to fear that the affects may leave him unable to play any kind of sport ever again.
“That was so tough, because it affected my massively physically and I didn’t think I could play sport anymore because of the weakness in my right side,” explained Pickett.
“Over the years I’ve built up my strength and then I found out about PDRL when I moved to Headingley to study Sport Business Management at Leeds Beckett, as well as attending Leeds Rhinos games with a friend, so I decided to give it a try.”
It’s fair to say that he has never looked back after taking that first big step to enter the world of PDRL by coming along to training. Isaac has been at the forefront of the Rhinos’ success this season, cementing a regular place in the team in a red shorts role and becoming one of the side’s most consistent performers.
“Being part of a team sport has helped me find confidence again and it’s been great getting to know all the lads, as well as getting back into rugby again although it was Union I played mostly as a youngster.”
“I have really enjoyed this season with the Rhinos, getting my first try at Wigan a few weeks ago and the boys coming into good form at the back end of the season.
“To be honest I’ve found it challenging to adapt to playing as a red shorts player, but I feel like I’m finding my feet and working out ways to use my position to an advantage for the team.”
As well as pulling on the blue and amber jersey, the impressive form of the Merthyr Tydfil native has also propelled him into international contention to represent his homeland.
“It has been an immense privilege to play for the rugby league club I support. It’s a dream come true and I’m enjoying every moment of playing for Leeds.
“Obviously though I’m also extremely proud of earning a spot in the Wales PDRL squad, and it would be a huge honour to play for my country in the first PDRL World Cup.”
A true PDRL success story, Isaac now has chance to reflect back on his first 12 months in the PDRL game and says he wants to make sure he ends his first season as a Rhinos player on the right note.
“Representing people that have suffered from strokes is a privilege and shows disabled people that, no matter your disability, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.
“I can honestly say PDRL has changed my life. Being involved in a team sport has allowed me to make new friends, get fit, and be involved within the game in a manner I never thought possible.
“Hopefully we can go out there on Sunday now and finish on a high. Beating Warrington ‘Wire’ 46-0 was a great moment. Keeping them scoreless was a tremendous effort from the lads and was just rewards for the hard work we’ve all put in this year.”
You can watch Isaac and the Rhinos PDRL team take on Warrington ‘Wire’ in a curtain raiser for tomorrow’s PDRL Grand Final between Warrington Wolves and Wakefield Trinity on Our League from 1:30pm.
For more information, and details of how to get involved with Leeds Rhinos PDRL, please contact email@example.com.