Rugby league comes together to pay respects to Ronan Costello

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Ronan Costello (Picture: Huddersfield Giants)

RUGBY league is again in mourning following the death of Huddersfield Giants youngster Ronan Costello on Tuesday.
The sense of loss felt by the sport as a whole can, of course, be nothing compared to what the 17-year-old’s family, friends and team-mates must be going through at this time.
Yet that does not mean the collective sense of grief or heartfelt tributes to Costello across social media are in any way diminished, particularly given the circumstances surrounding the death of a young man with the world still at his feet.
The Giants academy player was airlifted to hospital last Saturday after sustaining what was initially reported by the Huddersfield Examiner as head and neck injuries in a seemingly innocuous tackle in the subsequently-abandoned under-19s game with Salford Red Devils.
Fortunately, such incidents are incredible rare, although the tragedy comes little over a year after Keighley Cougars and Wales forward Danny Jones died during a game from a previously undetected hereditary heart disease.
Jones’ memory lives on thanks in no small part to the incredible work of his widow Lizzie, who successfully campaigned to make cardiac screening mandatory for all Kingston Press Championship and League One clubs.
She is now spearheading the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund in cooperation with The RFL Benevolent Fund, which will allow amateur clubs across the country to purchase defibrillators.
Costello too will be remembered by Yorkshire Juniors, who decided to rename their under-18 Challenge Cup in his honour in the immediate aftermath of the sad news being announced.
There will be a minute’s applause in his memory at many games this coming weekend too, while Costello’s former amateur club Brighouse Rangers are inviting anyone who wishes to lay flowers to do so around the posts on their main pitch.
A crowdfunding site was also set up to raise money for the Costello family late on Tuesday as well, although the family have since requested all donations instead go to the Defibrillator Fund, while a collection at his funeral will be held to raise money for that, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Headway.
What all of this does is underline the capacity of the rugby league family to come together during difficult times, although there is a sad postscript to take heed of.
For while the chances of incidents which claimed the life of Jones, and indeed former Wakefield Trinity player Leon Walker during a reserve game in 2009, recurring can be minimised as much as is possible through procedures now put in place, there will always be the risk, however relatively minor, of something like this happening again.
The Costello family acknowledged as much in a statement released by Huddersfield, saying it was a “tragic accident” – much like the one which claimed the life of Leeds half-back Chris Sanderson aged just 22 after he was knocked unconscious in a game at Salford in 1977.
Any competitor in any sport at any level knows there is a chance they could get hurt whenever they partake in their chosen discipline though, and accept that because their enjoyment of the sport and competition vastly outweighs that.
Perhaps, then, the most fitting way to remember Costello is as a young man playing the game he loved and living his life to the full.

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