Pete Stephenson

“On a summer’s evening in August, 2005, I was eagerly getting ready for a National Conference Premier League derby between Hull Dockers and local rivals East Hull.

It had only been my third outing for Dockers since I had signed from my former club of 10 years, West Hull.

We were losing at half-time and needed to get back into the game. I was at dummy-half and did something I’d done hundreds of times before. I scooted out and headed low for the try line but was held just short. As I fell, the weight of the defenders was on my back and neck. Something had to give way.

All I heard was a loud click, then, in an instant, I was flat on my back paralysed from the chest down. At first, I wasn’t sure what I had done, until I tried to move and couldn’t. The only movement I had was slightly moving my left arm. I knew then something was seriously wrong.

I’d dislocated my neck and shattered two vertebra. The doctors at Hull Royal Infirmary told me I needed surgery to fix the vertebra and realign my neck to release the pressure on my spinal cord, which was causing the paralysis. They made it very clear they didn’t know how much of a recovery I’d make and warned I may never walk again.

As I lay there thinking about what I’d just been told, I felt my whole world had just collapsed around me. All I could think about was how this was going to affect not just my life but that of my partner Emma and our two-month-old boy Sam.

After a successful operation to fix my neck, I was transferred to Pinderfields Spinal Unit in Wakefield to start my rehabilitation. It was here I first heard about the Rugby League Benevolent Fund, when trustees Tim Adams, Phil Clarke and Dave Phillips visited asking if there was anything I needed. My family were visiting daily from Hull so the fund helped with their travel costs and accommodation.

My rehabilitation was slow but after eight months of hard work I became fully independent in my wheelchair, regaining full movement in my arms and limited movement in my legs.

Eight months was long enough for me in hospital. Again the Benevolent Fund came to my aid and I was able to continue with my rehabilitation at home with one-to-one physiotherapy.

I was unable to return to my former job as a skilled joiner/carpenter, so the Benevolent Fund helped fund my sports journalism degree at the University of Huddersfield.  Since then I’ve gone on to forge a successful career with the Operations Department at the Rugby Football League.

It’s important we continue to raise funds and awareness for this fine charity. Rugby league is one of the world’s toughest sports. Although I hope no-one else suffers the kind of injury I did, in reality, another serious injury is always around the corner. It’s vital the funds and help are there to help when it does.”