Published by IRL
19 Jun 2020

James Gwatkin is originally from the rugby league hotbed of Hull in the UK. He grew up with karate as his chosen sport and achieved national recognition. At 15 years old – he found and fell in love with rugby league. It was his passion and his social life too.

However, at 23 years old, when he should have been in the prime of his sporting career, James started experiencing odd symptoms, dizziness and blurred vision. After two years, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Through a regime of training, healthy lifestyle and the amazing support and expertise of the MS team at Hull Royal Infirmary, the disease went into remission and he became fit and strong again.

It was a complete change of circumstances that re-kindled James’ playing career – he emigrated to Canada the birthplace of his father and took up the game with Ontario Rugby League and eventually represented Canada on their tour to Serbia – remarkable for a young man with MS.

Canada Rugby League president, Bob Jowett takes up the story;

“"James’s story is inspirational. Canada Rugby League is committed to the True Sport principles, Go For It; Play Fair; Respect Others; Keep It Fun; Stay Healthy; Include Everyone; and Give Back - it will be a challenge to find a better example of this commitment than James’s story.  

We applaud James on his achievements to date and for giving back through his ambassador roles and his work with the St Michael’s Hospital Foundation.  Thank you, James."

James is now working as a fund-raiser for St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, where he receives his treatment. His goals are to squash the stigma associated with MS and to inspire others to continue playing sport after diagnosis.

As a long-distance but devoted Hull FC fan and a trialist for the Ottawa Aces in October, there is no doubt that James is achieving both those goals.