Ask any coach at any level of any sport how difficult a job coaching can be, you can be sure of the same answers. Stressful, frustrating, pressure, time consuming are just a few that come to mind.
None of this however is putting off Luke Bryan, who has just completed his level one Rugby League coaching badges. A great achievement made more remarkable by the fact Luke is Paralysed from the neck down.In 1996 whilst playing Rugby League for Haydock under 18’s Luke suffered a horrific injury that has changed his life forever. He said “we were playing against local rivals Foley Lane, my usual position was hooker but on that day I was playing at loose forward unlucky 13. “I had jumped in the air to claim a high ball with two defenders closing in on me I suddenly collapsed and was unable to move it was a total freak accident. “I am still not sure how it happened although thinking on I had taken a knock earlier on in the game which may have had something to do with it”.
Luke was rushed to hospital where it was confirmed he had dislocated his neck at the C4-C5 vertebrae level. After having his neck operated on in which damaged vertebrae were repaired using metal plates and wires Luke was then transferred to Southport Spinal Rehabilitation Unit where he spent two years as a Patient.
Luke was considered to be a promising player for the future and had represented his County of Lancashire. This saw him being selected for the under 14s Great Britain side which toured Russia. He said “ I loved playing Rugby I would train up to five times a week then play on a weekend I even played a couple of times for the open age side at Haydock when I was 15”.
It was at the age of 16 when Luke had his first taste at coaching. He said “I used to help out with the under 12s at Haydock and I loved it, getting the younger lads off the streets and involved in Rugby was great and I got a real buzz from it”.
After two years at the spinal unit in Southport Luke’s care package was put into place and he was ready to move back home with his family. He said “a lot of adjustments had to be made around the house for me coming home including a new extension that had to be built all of which doesn’t come cheap. “The people of Haydock and the Rugby League fraternity have been fantastic in helping with fundraising and I cannot thank them enough.”
Luke is as independent as much as he can be and has two personal assistants with him at all times to help him with everyday tasks, One of which is to monitor the equipment that helps Luke breath. Luke admits life can be very tough at times but has great family and friends around him to make things easier especially his Mum Christine. Since being at home Luke has been able to complete his A-levels in both maths and I.T but still craved a future in Rugby League in some capacity .
In 2005 when the Rugby Football League set up its own Benevolent Fund to support seriously injured players the fund contacted Luke to see how they could help. At first the fund helped with modifications to the upstairs of Luke’s house. It was not until a chat with one of the funds Trustees ex Wigan and Great Britain star Phil Clarke that the idea of coaching again came about, Luke said “Phil came to see me and we chatted about Rugby and how I’d like to get back involved. Phil said well what about coaching? I was sceptical at first but Phil explained anything’s possible with the right help and guidance.”
Luke completed level one of the coaching course in just under a year he would have completed it sooner had it not been for a chest infection. To help Luke he was assigned a mentor in Ex Bradford player Craig Richards Luke said “Craig has been fantastic and has become a great friend, Craig’s job was to help me with the practical side of the course and the hands on stuff. I would tell Craig what I wanted him to do and he would do them as I had said. “The theory and exams though I was on my own and I enjoyed the challenge and was thrilled when I passed.”
As well as completing the remaining levels of his coaching badges Luke is also looking to take on another course in sports analysis. He said “ this is something I have always been interested in doing, the technology and software that is available is brilliant and the majority of Super League clubs are using it now. “I used to go along to watch games when I was younger then come home and watch the tape back two or three times and try to pick out the good and bad points of the game. “Even when I played, one of my strong points was the ability to read the game”.
Luke does not want the buck to stop with Rugby League either he said “I love watching all sports in particular cricket and tennis. “ I enjoy studying matches and looking at what players are doing well and not so well”. When asked what his aspirations where for the future Luke said “ I just want to keep building up my CV at first and see where things take me. I would love a job in Rugby League but would not be fussed if it were to be in another sport. “ I have learned to believe that any things possible in life though in my case I just need the right “tools.”
Luke’s story is one of true inspiration and I am sure he will go on to achieving all his goals as he says himself “you cannot just sit around and wait for things to happen you need go out there and get it.”
Written by: Pete Stephenson