Leigh Centurions and the club’s partner Leigh Community Trust have combined in a new initiative in Physical Disability and Learning Disability Rugby League.
It means that in 2022 the club will field teams that will represent the town in both PDRL and LDRL competitions under the guidance of Scott Burns, a key volunteer recruit to the Trust’s personnel who joins from Wigan Warriors.
Burns’ work with the Wigan Warriors Physical and Learning Disability teams was recognised at the 2020 UK Coaching Awards. He was recently appointed the Scotland PDRL Head Coach and won the prestigious Changing Lives Award for his inspiring contribution in championing inclusive sport with the aim of ensuring everyone can take part and benefit from physical activity.
Burns, a father of four and primary school teacher, told LCTV how his journey into disability sport was inspired by a life-changing personal event seven years ago. After suddenly losing the sight in his right eye following a neurological trauma, he started out on a new pathway.
“I’d played Rugby League since primary school and been fortunate enough to represent my town, county and country in the community game,” he said.
“That event ended my playing pathway but opened another, as a coach in disability sport.
“I had to change the way I did things and my day-to-day living, but I wanted to stay involved in Rugby League. Our friends at Warrington had been the first professional club to start a PDRL team through the work of Adam Hills and others and so I became involved in setting up a PD and LD team from scratch at Wigan.
“The RFL backed the formats heavily and new opportunities opened up quickly. As a coach, I found I had an empathy with the players and understood their trials and tribulations.
“The rewards were unbelievable, watching how the team members developed as players as well as people. That’s why we are in this job. Rugby League, and sport in general, is just the vehicle to grow the individual and give them opportunities to thrive in society.”
Burns will build up the playing squads in readiness for the 2022 season and he would like any person interested in joining the Leigh Centurions teams to contact the Trust through an expression of interest form on the club’s website www.leighcommunitytrust.co.uk.
Hannah Forbes, Leigh Community Trust Programmes Director, said: “This is something the Trust and club have been looking to bring to fruition over the last couple of seasons. But we hadn’t found the right person with the right experience to enhance our already established work in this field, with the A-team Hub. In Scott we have definitely found that person and we can’t wait to get things off the ground.”
Burns added: “Playing disability sport is life-changing for so many people and it’s a great time to get involved. With a World Cup around the corner in 2022 who knows where it can lead?
“Living within the Borough I know about a lot of good work Leigh Centurions and Leigh Community Trust do within the whole community. I’ve always been an admirer of their efforts and so I’m happy to be on board.
“This is the start of something very big for our community.”