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Ex-Leeds Rhinos skipper delighted to see “hardest working player” in Grand Final after “countless setbacks”

The story of James Donaldson is an inspirational one.

By now, after seeing many of Super League’s stars go through it, we all know just how devastating an ACL injury is to a rugby league player, how it leaves players out at times for an entire season and threatens to end careers.

So to suffer that injury once is bad enough, but three times must be devastating. Yet James Donaldson has been through ACL repairs on three occasions but that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his adversity.

The hard working loose-forward lost a Challenge Cup Final 50-0 in 2015 in no doubt a real low for him as a player.

Making matters worse, in 2016 he suffered relegation and in the winter of 2018 he found himself with no club.

Que the Leeds Rhinos who were undergoing a rebuild at the time. They offered him a trial starting with an appearance in their Boxing Day friendly against Wakefield. It didn’t start well for Donaldson as an error led to a Wakefield try that day.

However, he impressed enough to get a full contract at the club and hasn’t looked back. In 2020 he helped the Rhinos to the Challenge Cup and now is set to play in a first Grand Final, something that perhaps looked impossible when he was sat on the operating table for his third ACL repair.

A man who knows all about ACL injuries and a former teammate of Donaldson has taken to Twitter to outline just how pleased he is for him.

The man is former Leeds skipper Luke Gale who played alongside Donaldson at Bradford where they were relegated before linking up again at Headingley.

Gale, who left Leeds at the end of last season, said: “Can’t wait to see my mate James Donaldson run out in the GF tonight. 3 ACL repairs countless setbacks. Still the hardest working player I know on and off the field! Proud of you.”

Gale helped deliver the aforementioned Challenge Cup with a decisive drop goal and despite leaving Leeds looks set to cheer his hometown club on tonight with so many friends still in that Rhinos team.

The halfback has left Hull FC ahead of 2022, it will be interesting to see where he goes next.

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