Double amputee Mark Weavil has proved a real inspiration and serious health problems and disability have never held him back.
Mark, 60, of Lindley, who lost both legs to an inflammatory bone condition called osteomyelitis, is a rugby league kitman and he’s proud to be part of the ongoing Rugby League World Cup.
Mark had two spells in the role at Huddersfield Giants and was also kitman at Leeds Carnegie rugby union club.
He’s worked with England and Samoa and is currently in charge of the kit for the Jamaica World Cup squad who play Lebanon on Sunday (October 30).
Mark’s positive attitude has helped him throughout his life and rugby has been a real support mechanism.
He was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 13 and by the time he reached his 20s he was found to have osteomyelitis, an infection which causes inflammation or swelling in the bones.
It became a chronic condition and he had his toes removed but the infection continued to spread and his left leg had to be removed in 2001.
Mark needed a kidney transplant three years later – his sister Lesley was the donor – but that didn’t hold him up for long either and he was back doing a fundraising event to repay those who had helped him.
The osteomyelitis still wasn’t beaten and Mark had to have his right leg removed in 2006.
Mark said: “I’ve never let my health problems or disability get in the way and I’ve always been determined to carry on doing the job I love. Rugby has been my life and so many people have supported me and helped me stay positive.”
Mark’s proudest moment came in 2006 when he was England’s kitman in the Federation Shield tournament.
He recalled: “In 2006 I was trying to lose weight to manage better on my right leg. Having already lost one leg I was looking to lose weight to make it easier for myself.
“I was fitted with a gastric band and I went from 21 stone to around 17 stone. It turned out I still had to lose the second leg, but when that happened I was pleased I had lost the weight I had because I doubt I would have managed otherwise.
“Just after I had my second leg removed I was asked if I wanted to be the kitman for Great Britain who were off to play in Australia.
“While I really wanted to go I couldn’t because when you have a gastric band operation they don’t like you going abroad, they wanted me to stay here to monitor me. So they said what about doing it for England instead.
“I said definitely, since the team were playing here in the Federation Cup. I couldn’t do the first game against France, I just watched in the stands, I was still recovering from various operations.
“However, I did every game after that and we eventually won the competition. The irony was that Great Britain didn’t win anything and there I was collecting a medal at Widnes’s Halton Stadium having helped us win a trophy!”
Mark also told how the Giants supported him when he needed it the most.
“Back in 2001 I didn’t fear losing my leg, I feared not being able to do the job I loved so much. It was Tony Smith, the Giants coach at the time, who asked me to come back.
“Everyone at the club was great with me and I really enjoying being back in the place I felt most comfortable.”
After his right leg was removed and his second spell at the Giants came to an end Mark had the opportunity to team up with close pal Jimmy Lowes, the former Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos star.
Lowes had just become head coach at Leeds Carnegie and the two friends learned their respective roles at the same time.
Mark left the club just before the pandemic and since 2021 has helped out at local club Newsome Panthers after an invitation from head coach Richie Hawkyard.
“During the pandemic I had got really down,” said Mark. “So when Richie asked me to help out at the Panthers I jumped at the chance.
“I think it’s a really good club with good, hard working people. It’s a true community club where everyone mixes in. This season we’ve done great and won five trophies. It’s been a special year for the club. Mine and Richie’s family have known each other for years and we lived on the same street.”
Even at the age of 60 and after all his health problems Mark isn’t looking to retire just yet.
“The majority of people in the sport have been great with me,” he said. “They’ve not seen me because of my disability but because of the work I have done.
“I have worked at the highest levels and I have high standards. It doesn’t matter if it is England or Newsome, I have to be prepared, happy to reflect on my own performances and then improve.
“Even though I’m 60 now I would like one last crack at Super League before retiring for good. I don’t like to big myself up but I know I’m one of the best kitmen out there.”
Mark’s World Cup adventure will end on Sunday as Jamaica have failed to qualify for the next stage. The Reggae Warriors have brought a spirit and delight to this year’s World Cup, scoring their first ever try in this competition against world No1 side New Zealand.
Huddersfield Giants’ Michael Lawrence is in the Jamaica squad along with Oldham’s Jordan Andrade, who works as a youth engagement officer at Kirklees Council.