Leyland teenager who was born without a hand has achieved his ultimate dream by playing for Wigan Warriors
Ben Seward, of Leyland, has never let his disability get in the way of pursuing his passion for rugby, as he began training with Chorley Panthers in 2011.
And now the 15-year-old is living out his life-long goal, as the plays for Wigan Warriors disability team.
The Parklands High School pupil, who has been a Warriors fan for as long as he can remember, has been with the team for around 12 months and is hoping to develop his hobby into a career as he looks into diploma courses for Rugby League.
His mum, Carol, 43, said: “Having no hand has not affected him at all. He just finds different ways of doing things.
“When he started at Chorley Panthers the coach asked if he wanted to be given extenuating circumstances, for example, if he dropped the ball, did he want to count it as a tackle and pass it to the next player, but he wanted to play the same rules as everyone else.
“He was able to pick it up very quickly and was scoring tries at his first game.
“He got the Man of Steel award last year for rugby at Parklands last year as he was captain of the team.
“Then around a year ago, a parent at Chorley Panthers told me about Wigan Warriors starting a disability team for people with learning and physical difficulties. He turned up one day and that was that - he had joined.
“We are all massive Wigan Warriors fans so we are extremely proud of him.
“He has captained a few games and even plays against men as it is open age. He is able to keep up with the men.
“He has played against Australian comedian and radio and television presenter Adam Hills, who presents The Last Leg. He is an ambassador for physical difficulties in rugby league.
“We don’t know where Ben’s future lies but he would like to play rugby professionally. He is in year 11 and has been looking at a course at Myerscough College which offers a diploma in rugby league.”
Ben was born with a congenital abnormality, where his right arm was missing.
But he has amazed his parents about his resilience as he has learnt to function without it.
He has occasionally worn a prosthetic arm but prefers to be without.
“He had his first prosthetic arm when he was seven months old but by then he was walking round the furniture and he just threw the prosthetic off.
“He can play rugby and can ride his BMX - he can do practically everything.
“He is having an arm made so he can do stunts on his BMX and another arm so he can use weights at the gym.”
Ben is thankful that Wigan Warriors is providing him an opportunity to play and hopes the disability team will be given a bigger spotlight.
He says: “The one thing I wanted to do was play for Wigan Warriors and being in its disability team is a way to get into the main team.
“There are a few rules that are different to Chorley Panthers but we feel like we are still playing rugby. It doesn’t matter whether they are playing for fun and want to be part of a mainstream team or if they are playing it for the first time, through the disability team, it is different, but fun.
“It is open age, but there are restrictions on tackling.
“If you are under 18 you play tag rugby but if over 18 it’s full contact. Because I have played full contact at Chorley Panthers, I play it with adults at Warriors and I am fine with that, as enjoy that more.
“There are some brilliant players. Some have played before and suffered an injury whilst others have always had a disability, like me
“As Wigan Warriors is a big team, we are hoping the disability team will get more publicity and people’s names will get out there as we play at bigger events.
“It could lead to other things, but I am also happy to stay at the disability team.
“I am hoping to pursue a career in rugby, whether it is the disability team or mainstream, It doesn’t have to be a full time career. I could go into coaching or go to college and learn more about Rugby League.
“I love the atmosphere of being involved in the games as it is lively and fun.
“The players are really friendly and it is a really good environment to be in. I am a very competitive person and playing against other people gives me more of a challenge.”
Ben adds his disability doesn’t affect the way he lives his life as he ‘doesn’t know any different.’
He explains: “I have always learnt to do things my own way. I have learnt to catch a ball quite well with one arm and I have taught myself to do most things.
“I listen to the coaches on how to do things normally and then I adapt that. I have gone through life like that.
“I don’t see it as holding me back. There may be certain things I may not be able to do as well as some people, but I can do most things.”
Scott Burns, head coach at Wigan Warriors Disability Rugby League, says: “Ben came to us with some raw talent and bags of energy. After watching him train and seeing his skill and speed regardless of any disability, we found a position that suited his style and gave him the opportunity to fulfil a life long dream, to play for Wigan Warriors.
“Ben has continued to grow in confidence and his performances reflect that.
“Off the pitch Ben is a fantastic lad to have around the squad and shows enthusiasm and patience with those around him that might struggle.
“It’s been a pleasure to coach Ben in our first seasons in the Learning Disability Super League and RFL Physical Disability Leagues this year.”
Wigan Warriors welcomes any player over the age of 14 with both physical difficulties and learning difficulties to join the team.
To get involved, email [email protected]
Both the PD (Physical Disability) and LD (Learning Disability) teams train together at the new Robin Park Training Facility, Fridays 6pm until 8pm.
They will resume training for pre-season in January.