A PROMISING 17-year-old player died in a “tragic accident” after he slipped during a tackle and hit his head on the ground, an inquest has heard.
Ronan Costello was playing for Huddersfield’s Under-19s team against Salford on June 11 when he suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after being tackled by two opposition players.
The tackle was not malicious and the teenager’s “devastated” family did not hold the Salford players responsible for his death, the inquest at Bradford Coroner’s Court heard.
Costello, from Huddersfield, had played rugby since the age of six and signed a professional contract with Huddersfield in July 2015, the inquest was told.
Witnesses at the match, at Huddersfield’s Dram Centre ground, described how there had been no fighting or aggression among the players before Costello was tackled by Salford’s Adam Jones and Aaron Moore.
Costello, who had the ball, appeared to slip or stumble as he was tackled, causing his head or chin to come into contact with Jones’ shoulder and resulting in him falling backwards, the inquest heard.
The rear of his head hit the ground and he lost consciousness and began fitting.
Costello was given medical treatment on the pitch before being airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary, where he had brain surgery but was pronounced dead three days later, on June 14.
The inquest heard that the tackle was classed as “high” but could not have been avoided because of Costello’s body position.
A police investigation found that the death was not suspicious.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, assistant coroner Philip Holden said: “It’s clear that this was a tragic death of a really promising young rugby player who was doing what he loved at the time of his death.”
He continued: “I do find that this was an unforeseen and tragic accident.
“Ronan was playing for the Huddersfield Giants Under-19s side against Salford youth on June 11 this year.
“About 30 minutes into the game he received a pass, he leaned forward into the tackle, probably as a result of a loss of footing, and it’s likely that his head or chin came into contact with the shoulder of a Salford player.
“It did not set out to be a dangerous or malicious tackle and I find that, in all likelihood, the Salford players were already committed to the tackle.”
Jones described his tackle as “perfectly good” but said he had considered giving up rugby as a result of the “extremely traumatic” incident.
He said in a statement: “Because I was involved in the tackle, I felt responsible.
“It was just a normal tackle in the spirit of the game but knowing I wasn’t responsible didn’t stop me feeling that way.
“I’m still upset about what happened and always will be.
“I wish I could change what happened that day.”
Costello’s father, Martin, said he did not blame Jones.
He said: “I would like the Salford players to know I do not hold them responsible and this was a tragic accident.”
In a statement after the inquest, Costello’s family added: “The family are absolutely devastated by the passing of Ronan.
“He loved playing rugby league and was proud to play for Huddersfield Giants. Ronan was much loved and will always be remembered.”