Bravery? Rugby league has far more than we can ever imagine

 

How brave do you need to be to play rugby league?

The RFL brand Super League stars as ‘extraordinary’. After the weekend just gone, it’s hard to disagree.

First Shaun Wane carried Wigan to Headingley just 48 hours after the death of his father. As if that wasn’t brave enough, a clearly emotional Wane then fronted up for a post-match interview with Eddie Hemmings.

On Sunday, Adrian Purtell took courage to new levels. He was given a standing ovation when he replaced Nick Scruton after 25 minutes of Bradford’s win against Hull KR. Few would argue it was unmerited.

That he was given the all clear to resume a professional career in rugby league just 10 months after suffering a heart attack is remarkable enough.

But how many of us would then have the mental strength to be prepared to throw ourselves back into one of the most demanding sports on the planet?

In Purtell’s shoes, I think I’d have been tempted to keep fit, but I’d have given up on the idea of a career as a professional sportsman.

Think about running hard on a treadmill. About the long hours training on the fields at the Bulls’ Tong base. Then think about the nagging doubt that would be in the back of your mind when your heart starts to beat fast.

When sweat drips down your forehead, your lungs feel like they’re about to burst and your body is screaming for rest – would you have the mental strength to not worry about your heart, less than a year after you suffered a heart attack?

I wouldn’t – and I suspect I’m not alone.

That Purtell has fought back and is able to resume his Super League career is remarkable in more ways than one.

Courage? He – and every other rugby league player – has got more than we can imagine.

Sticking with Bradford, how good is it to see a rookie English coach mixing it with the big boys just months after being given his first head coach’s role?

Francis Cummins has got the Bulls playing with pride and plenty of flair.

And in the likes of Danny Addy, who was excellent against Hull KR, Cummins is getting the best out of a squad that looks set to put the horrors of last year behind them.

After a quarter of the regular Super League season, Bradford are third in the table and looking more likely than not to be involved in the play-offs at the end of the year.

Cummins won’t get carried away – there isn’t a more grounded coach in Super League – but he deserves huge credit for what he’s done so far.

Friday’s clash between Warrington and Huddersfield looks to have all the makings of an early-season classic.

Can Warrington narrow the gap on Super League’s leaders, or will Huddersfield send out another message that this time, under Paul Anderson, they really do mean business?

Answers on a postcard, please – I haven’t a clue.

 

Thoughts? Comments? Leave them in the box below.

Follow Neil Baraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough

 

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