Blackpool-born Harry Rushton is grateful to his family for helping him on his way t…
Nick was England’s top tryscorer in the recent Physical Disability RL World Cup, helping the host nation to defeat New Zealand 42-10 in the final at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium.
PDRL was only introduced in this country in 2018 but has grown at such a rate that the 35-year-old Kennedy and his team-mates were able to win all last month’s matches to be crowned the sport’s first world champions.
Raised in Blackpool, Nick attended Leeds University and has continued to be based in Yorkshire, working for a finance company.
He lost an arm in a motoring accident and decided to give PDRL a try with the Castleford Tigers club four years ago.
Nick told The Gazette: “This sport has completely changed my life and is such a positive force.
“After the accident, my mental and physical health took a huge dip but I went down to a training session with the Tigers and never looked back.
“The RFL has championed the England team and we’ve developed in leaps and bounds. We were in camp for a week before the tournament and the experience was phenomenal. We were treated as elite athletes and it helped the lads to bond.
“Our teams are almost all affiliated to Super League clubs, so players can play for the club they have supported all their lives.”
PDRL takes various forms, from full-contact to non-contact, and is accessible to players with any disability provided they can walk or run, which is what distinguishes the sport from wheelchair RL.
Nick’s team shared the spotlight with fellow world champions, England’s wheelchair team, last Saturday when both were presented to the crowd during the men’s/women’s World Cup final double-header at Manchester United.
The wheelchair game benefited from extensive coverage of its World Cup on the BBC and Nick added: “To be on the pitch at Old Trafford and get a shout-out was great. Wheelchair RL has been going longer and they are where we want to be. We need a platform.”
PDRL’s profile has been boosted by the involvement of Shaun Briscoe, the former Wigan and England full-back, as the national team’s head coach.
“It really is empowering to have Shaun coaching us,” says Nick, whose playing positions are a combination of winger and prop forward.
Opportunities to promote the game in the capital city also helped.
“We went to the London Stock Exchange and hit the button to close the market,” says Nick.
“We also went to the Speaker’s House at the Houses of Parliament as guests of honor with the wheelchair team. It was a reception for Disabled History Month and it was great to feel part of the brotherhood of sport.
“I hadn’t met many of the wheelchair players, so it was good to exchange stories.
“When the World Cup started we didn’t really dare to dream because the sport is still quite new over here.
“It has been going longer in Australia and New Zealand but they don’t have a competition as clearly defined as ours. Hopefully the momentum can build now.”