Ex-rugby league player Kenny Woodard diagnosed with dementia after former Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos man heartbreak

Former rugby league player Kenny Woodard has been diagnosed with dementia.

Woodard played rugby union for Pontypool, Ebbw Vale and Pontypridd, whilst also playing league for Celtic Crusaders back in 2006.

The 46-year-old said he had received approximately ten serious head injuries during his career and many more “subconcussions”, but wouldn’t leave the field due to pressure.

“If I came off from a game and someone comes into the squad, takes my position and plays incredibly well, they’ll keep the position,” Woodard told the Daily Mirror. “If that happens in March and I’m trying to earn a contract for the following season, it’s an interesting situation to be in when you’ve got a mortgage and children.

“The coaches, too, want their best team on the pitch, so you’re constantly asking: am I doing the best for me? Am I doing the best for the team? Sometimes those aren’t the same answer and I think that decision must be taken away from the players.”

Woodard has now joined 180 others intend to issue formal proceedings against World Rugby, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the Rugby Football Union (RFU). “On a personal level I want to make the game safer and, while I’m not looking for financial gain for myself personally, what I’m looking to do is ensure that my children and my partner do not have to pay for any treatment that I have as a result of this.

“I think there’s a lot of negativity around this, with some former players saying we’re ruining the game, but ultimately it’s not fair on my children to have to bear the brunt of caring for me because I made the decision to play rugby 30 to 40 years earlier.”

It remains a contentious issue in both codes as the increasing number of players being diagnosed with dementia gets scary. Former Castleford Tigers halfback Francis Maloney spoke out about his own battle with dementia earlier in the year.

Maloney, who signed for Leeds as a teenager, also went on to represent Featherstone Rovers, Warrington, Oldham, Castleford, Wakefield and Salford.

However, the 48-year-old must now live with the horrific after-effects.

“I got knocked out twice in one game,” Maloney told ITV.

“I remember smelling salts and went back on and then ten minutes before the end of the game I got knocked out again and I was out cold.

“A couple of times I’ve put the kettle in the fridge.

“I remember when I first got the diagnosis, I’ve obviously attempted suicide before but I’ve contemplated it since because I thought you know what, I don’t want somebody wiping my backside.”

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