The moment had arrived for this year’s England PDRL representatives on Saturday, 22nd January, as the players attended their first official training session. Three players from Castleford Tigers’ PDRL team were selected for the England team and those were Nick Kennedy, Mark Gummerson and Keenan Wilkes. Three months in the waiting, the Tigers’ PDRL captain Nick Kennedy said: “The shirt has been on a coat hanger in pride of place waiting for its first outing. It was great to put it on properly for the first training session.”
Players from across the whole competition gathered at Hopwood Hall College exhilarated by the prospect of training for their country. Nick went on to explain the days set of events.
“Firstly, we had a talk on what it means to represent your country and be part of a squad at national level. Every time they said you are England players now, it sent tingles down my spine.
“The coaching staff further spoke about mental health around the pressures of playing at international level; how it might be a little different and how to deal with some of the stresses that may come with it.
“We moved onto some proprietary physio style exercises looking at how we maintain ourselves and keeping injury free throughout the season. With PDRL, it’s a really diverse set of physical requirements so they made sure everybody could stretch and rehab in different ways for different disabilities so that it worked for everyone.
Preparing mentally and physically are vital aspects to any arrangement of professional sport, and whilst this was crucial, getting the ball in hand was the moment Nick and his teammates were “chomping at the bit for.”
“We did some team building drills that worked on building that trust as an England squad going forwards. Following some fitness components that got us all blowing, we went into a full-contact game which worked on constant attacks simulating what we would face in the final ten minutes of a game.
“It was about making sure that our communication, teamwork and decision making was at a high standard when tired and under pressure.”
In closing, the Fords’ PDRL captain shared his excitement for the forthcoming season with both his international and domestic duties in 2022.
“The coaches at England are already planning the training sessions that we have got going ahead and have a good idea of the type of rugby we want to be playing, as well as what is expected of us as a team.
“It hit me when I first got there. This is what I have been grafting at the gym for. This is England, this is real now.
“It was just a fantastic day. I can’t wait for the season to roll on and more training with England; it’s a really exciting period for PDRL.”