Leeds' James Donaldson overcoming adversity for success to make brother proud

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staronline@reachplc.com (Julie Stott)

James Donaldson will unleash years of pent-up frustration and injury agony if Leeds win next Saturday’s Challenge Cup final against Salford.

The Rhinos forward has had three ACL operations, lost his job when Bradford Bulls went bust and been written off several times.

But Donaldson has revealed the real secret behind his insatiable drive to succeed is the determination to make his brother proud.

The 29-year-old said: “My brother Craig was paralysed from the chest down 10 years and does not live an easy life.

“I am able to do things that he’s not and I’m trying to make him proud in every game I play.

Leeds' James Donaldson overcoming adversity for success to make brother proud
Donaldson is looking to add silverware after his incredible journey

“If we win I’m going straight up to Cumbria, where he lives, to show him and the rest of my family the medal.”

Craig’s life was shattered in a freak accident when a piece of wood fell on his head and now rarely ventures far.

Donaldson said: “The last time he made a big trip was to see me play for Hull KR in the 2015 Cup final at Wembley.

“It took a lot of effort because he needs nurses and carers but he would have been at Wembley again this year if crowds had been allowed.”

Donaldson says that his family are the inspiration for his success

Donaldson says 34-year-old Craig, who has a son, has eventually found peace with his life.

But their mum still worries and Donaldson admits that was his biggest fear when he suffered another potentially major injury at the start of August.

Donaldson fractured a vertebrae in his back playing against Huddersfield and was in so much pain he couldn’t get up.

But he knew his mum and wife were watching on TV, so shouted at the medical staff to stop holding his neck as they assessed the damage.

He said: “I didn’t want my mum panicking, after already having one son paralysed.

Donaldson admits his mum still panics about him getting injured

“I had a massive shooting pain and it felt like I’d been snipered and I was thinking ‘I do not deserve this after all the hard work I’ve put in’.”

Thankfully Donaldson’s fracture wasn’t as severe as first feared and he was back in action just over a month later.

Now he’s gearing up for Wembley, hoping to avenge his 2015 50-0 defeat with Hull KR to Leeds, as well as proving a point to all his doubters.

He said: “People have written me off all my career and I feed off that negativity. After my third ACL people said I’d never be the same player but I will continue to prove people wrong.

“Winning at Wembley would be more than I could ever dream of. It would be beyond my wildest dreams to lift the Cup – just thinking of it makes my hair stand up.”


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