The RPA would like to congratulate the AXA Wealth Team including RPA Chairman David Barnes and former England hooker Mark Regan who successfully reached the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro yesterday. Particular praise must go to former England A centre Andy Blyth who overcame severe pain and restricted movement due to the on-going effects of the career ending injury he suffered just over a decade ago when he broke his neck.
Jonny Wilkinson, who was part of the same Newcastle Falcons’ squad as Andy Blyth in the 1990’s gave this tribute to his former team-mate, “What Andy has achieved is incredible. I got to know him well while we were both at Newcastle and the injury he suffered while playing for Sale against Saracens had a huge impact on everyone who had played alongside or against him. He is such an enthusiastic and determined guy so it doesn’t surprise me that he has managed to accomplish this feat. I’ve had more than my fair share of injuries, but nothing compared to the horrific one he suffered. It is hard to imagine what he felt when he was told he may never walk again and how much frustration he would have experienced in the 10 months he was in hospital and during the following years while he re-learnt how to walk. To have reached the stage where he can climb a 20,000 foot mountain is one of the greatest comebacks seen from a rugby player and is an inspiration to us all.”
RPA CEO Damian Hopley said, “Andy’s achievement is truly remarkable. Just over a decade ago he suffered a near fatal injury and his parents were prepared for the worst. Andy refused to believe that his paralysis would be permanent and fought inch by inch to walk again. He still occasionally struggles to climb a normal flight of stairs, so to have trekked along treacherous terrain to a height of nearly 6,000m is almost beyond belief.
“His courage, determination and humour in tackling a challenge which many of us would never dream of tackling will inspire many people, not just sportsmen, but also anyone who has suffered a debilitating injury or has hurdles to clear. The RPA Benevolent Fund was set up to help players like Andy and the fact that he has chosen to climb Mt Kilimanjaro to help raise money for the Benevolent Fund is a tribute to his generosity and the loyal partnership he has established with the Rugby Players’ Association.”
THE RPA would like to thank the entire AXA Wealth team for the substantial contribution it has made to the RPA Benevolent Fund – the Professional Players’ Charity, as well as to Help for Heroes and the RFU Injured Players’ Foundation.
David Barnes blog on reaching the summit can be found at www.therpa.co.uk