Award Nomination ‘Big Deal’ To Veteran Wheelchair Rugby Star

Former soldier James Simpson was injured in 2009 during an IED explosion in Afghanistan but has used his love of sport to rebuild his life.

Former Army soldier James Simpson is working with the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup to promote the growth of the sport and has recently been nominated for an award.

Simpson lost his legs in 2009 during an IED explosion in Afghanistan but has used his love of wheelchair rugby to rebuild his life.

The 2021 tournament will be just the fourth of its kind, with Simpson playing a major role in attracting attention to the sport.

For Simpson, his love of rugby league started from a young age.

He said: "I grew up playing rugby union for my school and then going along to rugby league on the night.

"I went to Headingley Stadium to watch Leeds play which is a huge thing.

"If you are from Leeds, you watch Leeds Rhinos. It’s what you do."

James Simpson alongside Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup trophy.
James Simpson alongside the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup trophy.

In 2001, he joined the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment and had moved to the 5th Regiment Royal Artillery by 2009.

He was on a routine foot patrol in Afghanistan when he tripped an IED. His injuries included the loss of both of his legs, three fingers and the muscle from his right forearm.

After his injury, Simpson joined Leeds Rhinos in 2012 and the sport has gone on to become a "huge part" of his life, adding: 

"I never had dreams of representing my country and I ended up doing that."

The Leeds Rhinos wheelchair team got James Simpson out of his house and back into a sporting situation.

Seven years ago, there were only six players in the Leeds squad and six teams in the league. Now in 2019, there are 20 sides.

The World Cup in 2021 will see all of the men’s, women’s and wheelchair events run simultaneously for the first time.

In the meantime, Simpson has been nominated for a Soldiering On award and says it shows how much progress has been made.

He said: "It recognises soldiers who have left and moved on away from the military.

"It shows how far I have come as well. From being in the Army to now at this stage of my life where I’m working for the World Cup.

"It’s quite a big deal for me to know I’ve been nominated for an award to show how far my journey has led me and how far I have come."