Leeds Rhinos PDRL players deliver inspiring talk to young offenders at HMYOI Wetherby

Players from Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s Physical Disability Rugby League side teamed up with the PE Department at Her Majesty’s Young Offender Institution Wetherby to deliver an inspirational talk as part of their Disability Awareness Week.

The session gave Rhinos stars Dan Roberts, Simon Brown and Tom Kaye the chance to share their life stories and explain how they have managed to successfully overcome adversity in their own lives.

The talks also encouraged the young men to explore the ways in which sport can be used as a vehicle to make positive, lasting changes that will allow them to rebuild their lives following their release.

Ben Berry, Team Manager for Leeds Rhinos PDRL, explained: “Our PDRL players were very excited by the opportunity to participate in community outreach and it was great to see them share their diverse experiences of overcoming challenges.

“The guys did a great job of explaining how their own experiences of developing resilience and building character has allowed them to bounce back from adversity and lead successful lives – both on and off the field.

“The young people were visibly moved by their stories and it was clear they found them both relatable and inspiring.”

Roberts, who led the side to the inaugural PDRL Finals Day in his first season as Player-Coach, said the players felt honoured to be asked to lead the discussion.

“Going into the prison I was extremely excited, but also a little unsure about what to expect,” he said. “It was my first talk to a large group about my illness and I didn’t know how we’d be received by the offenders, so it was a bit nerve-wracking. In the end it proved to be a fantastic experience as the lads were very reflective and respectful to us all.

“The key message was that no matter what their background is, what challenges they’ve faced and what they’ve done previously, it shouldn’t stop them aspiring to achieve more and do something with their lives.”

The talk looked to build on the positive relationship forged between Leeds Rhinos Foundation and HMYOI Wetherby, with the two organisations having worked together on the charity’s ‘Onside’ project to prepare offenders for re-integration into society and tackle the issue of re-offending.

Paul Brown, the institute’s Head of PE, commented: “It was great to see the players representing Leeds Rhinos Foundation and supporting our Disability Awareness Week.

“The stories from all the players were quite moving; a common theme from all of them was having to be resilient, never be scared to reach out for help, and choose your friends carefully.

“Some of the young people were visibly moved by the players stories and the event was truly inspirational for all involved.

“I think the session dispelled some pre conceived ideas that the young people had about people with visible and non-visible disabilities, and more importantly, how to see the person behind the disability.”

For more information on Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s Reducing Re-Offending programmes, please contact janet.sylvester@leedsrhinosfoundation.org.

To learn more about how to get involved with Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s PDRL team, please contact ben.berry@leedsrhinosfoundation.org.