It was a case of ‘like father, like son’ when 10-year-old Leo Pawson sustained the same rugby league injury as his dad.
Leo was playing for the under-10s at Emley Moor when he suffered a broken eye socket, an injury rarely seen in junior rugby.
It was a nasty injury that needed surgery and two hospital stays but the response of the local rugby league community soon put a smile back on his face.
Leo’s dad is Dave Pawson, 38, who has played rugby league in and around Huddersfield for 21 years.
While he was playing for Underbank Rangers Dave suffered the same injury so he knew what his son was going through.
Dave said: “I broke my eye socket and had a long time off so I knew what it was like. I have a plate in my eye but because Leo is so young they could only mesh it.
“It’s a really rare injury for kids that age and the specialists at Leeds General Infirmary said they’d only usually see that kind of injury in kids who had been in a car crash.”
Leo with proud dad Dave and sister Ella
Leo had surgery straightaway but days later he felt a “twang” in his eye and his eyeball stopped moving upwards. That meant another four days in LGI and treatment with steroids and antibiotics.
Now, eight weeks later, Leo is well on the road to recovery and has been given the all-clear by doctors.
The pace of Leo’s recovery was boosted by the amazing response of the rugby league family and the wider sporting community around Huddersfield.
As word got round about what happened messages came flooding in for Leo. Danny Brough, the former Huddersfield Giants star, was there when it happened and got the word out, as did Ritchie Hawkyard, head coach at Newsome Panthers, who has known Leo since he was tiny.
Jermaine McGillvary, the Giants legend, sent a video message telling Leo how he came back from his own injury nightmare last year.
“Don’t be deterred,” he said. “Rugby league is a tough game but I know you will come back bigger and stronger.”
Kev Bower, of Northern Fitness Gym in Linthwaite, also raised money for Leo; a Holmfirth restaurant offered a free meal; and a signed England shirt came from the RFL.
Giants head coach Ian Watson sent a message as did former Super League star Wayne Godwin, aka Waggataurus on social media.
Leo loves his football too and a video message came through from his favourite Huddersfield Town player Sorba Thomas who told him to never give up.
“I’m hearing you are talking about stopping playing,” said Sorba. “I’ve had injuries and setbacks where I have thought the same thing but you have the right people around you. I will be supporting you, the club will be supporting you.
“Don’t stop chasing your dream. Don’t stop playing because of one injury because that injury can make you 10 times stronger. We will all be here on your journey.”
Leo was invited to the Giants last game of the season where Jermaine McGillvary presented him with a signed shirt and a pair of boots.
Leo’s family – which includes mum Emma and two-year-old sister Ella – were grateful for all the support and dad Dave said: “It made me so proud to play rugby and be part of this amazing community.
“There was one time when Leo got upset and was asking ‘why me?’ But we calmed him down and got him to look at all his messages again and that put the smile back on his face. I can’t thank people enough for their kindness and support.”
Leo, who attends Rowley Lane School in Lepton, won the Man of Steel Award and is planning to return to the rugby field next year.
He’s already back playing football at Laund Hill and Dave said: “His confidence is coming back but it does take time.
“When I came back from my injury I don’t think I was the same player for a couple of seasons.
“He must be feeling better, though, because he’s joking with his mum now saying: ‘You don’t know what me and dad have been through with our injury!”