The story of Connor Lynes, a young boy from Bransholme in Hull, is a remarkable one. At the age of just 14, Connor suffered an unfortunate brain injury whilst playing for Lambwath Lions and was diagnosed with a blood clot on his brain.
After originally been told he would never play rugby league again, the last three years have been somewhat of a whirlwind journey for the teenager.
What he has managed to achieve on the back of such a life changing injury is nothing short of inspiring. Not to be deterred by this set back at such a young age, Connor has met the challenges he has faced head on and has done a huge amount of work in the community.
His fundraising charity, Team Connor Lynes, has been instrumental in raising money to support people with brain injuries across the UK. Connor raised £16,000 for an innovative sensory room to be installed at the base of Life For a Kid in Hull and has done a tremendous job of raising awareness for people with similar injuries to himself.
Further to his incredible achievements away from the field, recently this year Connor took another step forward in his story, defying the odds by stepping back out onto the field for the first time in three years to play rugby league as part of the Wakefield Trinity’s PDRL (physical disability rugby league) team.
Connor’s story has captured the hearts of many in the rugby league community and the teenager has received the support of a number of players in recent years, players who are inspired by what he has been able to achieve following such a significant moment in his life.
Toronto Wolfpack have certainly been humbled by this feel good story and donated a signed Wolfpack jersey to Connor to be auctioned off later in the year in a bid to support the terrific cause initiated by the youngster.
Within the Wolfpack ranks, one man who has kept a close eye on Connor for the last few years is second rower Rich Whiting. Whiting came to know of the teenager during his time at Hull FC and been a very keen supporter of him ever since. He is now one of a number of Toronto players that will continue to support him and raise awareness of the work he is doing in the community.
In light of the recent return to the field of Connor, Whiting spoke of the impact the young man has had on not just the rugby league community, but on everyone with his recovery. He said:
“I first heard about Connor whilst I was at Hull FC. The story broke in Hull and brought FC and KR fans together a little bit.
“Seeing a young boy get hurt in such a way playing the game that he loved brought everyone together. We tried to rally round him and I’ve kept in touch with him ever since I left Hull FC.
“I think he’s an inspiration for everyone. To be dealt the injury he’s had at such a young age and to show such a positive attitude and live with the effects of the injury; he’s shown that he can still be the person that he wants to be and can still help people in a different way.”
Whiting was keen to show his support for the growing concept of the PDRL, highlighting the opportunities it is providing for people like Connor to rediscover their love for playing rugby league. He added:
“Connor has shown that if you keep a never give in attitude that good things happen and he’s proved that by being able to take the field as part of the PDRL.
“It’s fantastic for Connor and a great initiative to give people who have had injuries or accidents in life a way back in to rugby league, to keep their love of the game and spread the awareness of the sport.
“It’s creating a way for the game to appeal to other people because a lot of people in the world love rugby league but because of their disability or other difficulties they have never been able to participate so to open up the game to those people and a whole new audience is great for the game.
“Connor has been a terrific ambassador for brain injuries in Hull and for him to be able to play again is massive and is an inspiration to others as well.”
Connor made a try scoring return to the game against Leeds Rhinos PDRL a couple of weeks ago and was out on the field again at the Halliwell Jones Stadium as part of the curtain raiser clash against Warrington Wolves PDRL ahead of the Wolfpack’s Challenge Cup clash with Warrington Wolves.
Connor caught up with Whiting after the game and gave us his thoughts of the journey he has been on over the last three years and admitted his delight to be able to get back on the field after so long. He said:
“It’s been good to get back out there playing. I’ve been away from the sport for a few years but that feeling of getting your boots back on and the jersey has been good.
“It’s been a weird adventure these past three years. I was told that I couldn’t play again so to hear about the PDRL concept gave me the opportunity to come back out of retirement and it’s been a journey I’ve taken step by step.”
Connor had nothing but praise and gratitude for the support he has received from the rugby league community and highlighted the positive impact the game has had not only on his own life but on those suffering with similar injuries to himself, capped off with the growth of the PDRL. He continued:
“A couple of years ago we didn’t know anything about kids with brain injuries but now it’s known all around the sporting community because of my story and all the support I’ve had from rugby league. It’s all about getting the word out.
“The PDRL is a great concept. It gives people who’ve been told they’ll never play again and had their hearts broken the chance to do so and it’s a massive boost and gives you something to aim for.”