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LDRL star Phil Kelly discusses impact of the sport on his life

York RLFC are proud to run a long-established Learning Disability Rugby League (LDRL) team, which launched back in 2019.

Acomb-born Phil Kelly has been an ever-present in the LDRL team ever since its conception, having played at venues such as Anfield, St James’ Park and the LNER Community Stadium.

LDRL is a non-competitive variant of the sport open to anyone with physical and learning difficulties and provides players like Phil with an opportunity to enjoy the social, physical and mental benefits of rugby league while also being able to represent his home club.

“I met Neil Gulliver (York RLFC General Manager), who was coaching at SNAPPY, a special needs session for children and young people, and he said he was trying to get a Foundation team together,” explained Phil, discussing on his route into LDRL.

“Having been a rugby league fan since 2005, I jumped at the opportunity straight away and I’ve not stopped coming since, I’ve really enjoyed it!

“I’ve got to meet new people, make new friends and that’s what LDRL is all about for me.

“Having Asperger’s syndrome, which, for those that don’t know, impacts on your communication, I struggle to make new friends.

“But playing rugby league has really boosted my confidence and I’ve met some amazing people at York, such as Neil and Adam Prentis and Mark Prangnell from the Foundation.

“They’re amazing people and long may my teasing and joking with them continue!”

Phil joined York’s LDRL team alongside his brother Chris, who has since taken up a coaching role within the side, having completed his RFL Level Two Coaching qualification.

“Chris does a fantastic job, ensuring that everyone is communicating to the standards that he wants us to be at,” continued Phil.

“I’ll lead the warm-up and then he’ll deliver the session. He’ll always find a new way to tire me out!

“We lost our Dad seven years ago, but I’m sure he’ll be looking down on myself and Chris and be really proud of us both.”

Discussing his stand-out moments while playing LDRL, Phil said: “I’m actually a massive Liverpool fan and my first LDRL Festival was at Anfield for the Magic Weekend. To play there was an absolutely fantastic experience.

“And to play at St James’ Park as well, they were an amazing set of fans to play in front of and they gave us a really great round of applause at the end of the Festival.

“I couldn’t thank them enough for the support that they gave us and to the other clubs that took part such as Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings. It was brilliant to have that support.”

For anyone interested in getting involved with Learning Disability Rugby League, Phil has a simple message.

“Come and give it a try and really enjoy it! All the sessions are free to attend and it’s a great opportunity to meet new friends and stay active,” he said. 

“LDRL is all about having fun and enjoying yourself, it’s not competitive, despite what some of us may think!

“If you come down, you’ll get to meet some new friends… and you’ll get to meet me too!”

Anyone interested in joining the York RLFC Learning Disability Rugby League team is invited to take part in our weekly training sessions at the York St John University Sports Park (YO31 8TA) every Wednesday evening (6pm - 7pm).

All sessions are free to attend although, for the planning purposes, participants are asked to complete the following form by clicking HERE

Any businesses or organisations interested in supporting the York RLFC LDRL team or the York RLFC Foundation can do so through a range of available sponsorship packages. 

For more information, please email York RLFC General Manager Neil Gulliver on, visit the Club Shop (Monday to Friday, 10am - 5pm) or call 01904 670880 and ask for the Foundation team.


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