It was an unexpected phone call received by Mark Gummerson earlier in November when the news was re-laid that he would be part of the England Community Lions PDRL team – a provisional squad for the World Cup competition in 2022. Talking about that initial conversation, Gummerson said: “I got a call from an unknown number and I wasn’t too sure what it was all about.
“When I picked up the phone and was told the news, I was really surprised, shocked and speechless. I didn’t really know how to react. Something like this has never happened to me before. I was really happy with myself and I just want to do the best I can.”
It hasn’t always been an easy path for Mark however, as he explained the difficulties faced during his younger years playing rugby league.
“Growing up, I played a Kippax Welfare, my local sports club. After U15’s/U16’s, I couldn’t keep up with kids that were getting bigger and stronger and found myself getting hurt quite often. I took it as a bit of a lost cause.
“I went up to a master’s training with my friend and his dad at Kippax Welfare and there was Andy Lynch there who at the time was the coach for Castleford Tigers’ PDRL side. He asked me to go down and it’s all started from there.
“But I never thought that I would get an England call-up from that. I just play it because I love rugby league.”
It’s a momentous achievement for Mark and the impact of both his teammates and coaches were in his words, crucial to the selection.
“I think their impact has been massive and they’ve all been really helpful to me. The coaches understand that we are not Super League players but that’s the standard that we want to try and get to.
“They have brought us a long way from where we started and have always done the best they can for us.”
Since the first PDRL match in the UK in 2018, the sport has gained vast popularity across the country and its involvement in the World Cup are promising steps going forward. Mark was doubtful at first whether it could break strides but is immensely grateful it did.
“When I started playing PDRL, I didn’t think anything would come of it to be honest. I was shocked by the level of skill and competitiveness when I first started playing, but it just shows how far the sport has come in such a short space of time.
“To have an England side within four years is really good for the sport.”
The call-up alone has been a surreal experience for Mark and stepping onto that pitch would make a dream come true.
“I never expected to be playing rugby let alone to be called up to England. I feel privileged because it’s England!
“To put on that jersey and go out there onto the pitch it would mean everything to me – it would be such an overwhelming feeling. I never thought that I’d be able to get where I’ve got to.”