I turned the corner and so can they, says Wakefield Trinity’s role model Reece Lyne

AS someone who has previously veered close to the edge, Wakefield Trinity’s Reece Lyne is an ideal person to speak to young offenders about how their lives can always be transformed, no matter how desperate they feel.

Reece Lyne with Tony Adams.

Granted, there are many ideal people to perform such a role.

The difference is, while most do not take it up, Lyne volunteers to talk about his life experiences to help those who feel there is no way out of their mire.

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The England centre was rewarded yesterday when named by RFL president Tony Adams as the first recipient of his RFL President’s Awards in recognition of this mentoring work.

Wakefield's Reece Lyne.

The special awards are designed to recognise inspiring work to change lives and communities through rugby league, and achievements by players, coaches and volunteers which bring the sport to new audiences.

Former Hull FC star Lyne, 27, is one of several Super League players who have given time and expertise to support a project at Wetherby Young Offenders Institute delivered by the charity Rugby League Cares.

The programme involved players sharing their own experiences with young people and mentoring them to help improve their self-esteem and get back on track.

Separately from the Rugby League Cares project, Lyne has also developed a mentoring programme of his own with young offenders in Hull whose behaviour has disrupted their own lives and affected the lives of others.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, a “humbled” Lyne explained more about his work. He said: “I’d started to do a bit when I was living in Wakefield at the Wakefield Young Offenders but when I moved back to Hull I started with the East Riding, too.

“It’s about letting them know, either if they’re in trouble or coming out of young offenders, that it’s not the end of the road.

“There are still opportunities out there to try and improve and turn your life around.

“I meet up with them and might take them out for the day, somewhere of their choice, either going for a coffee or going to play some pool, and take them into a positive environment.

“I didn’t have my dad around when I was growing up and not having a positive role model can affect you. You can make big mistakes along the way but as long as you learn from them and try and be a better person, you can always go on to do better.

“Working with young kids, I’m always pretty honest with them. We have breaking the ice sessions and I explain to them I’m not there as a sportsman – it’s not about Reece the rugby player – but just Reece the person.

“I explain my own experiences and how life isn’t always rosy and doesn’t always go to plan. I’ve experienced that. But I turned the corner and so can they.”

Lyne, who earned Super League Dream Team selection and made his England debut last year, conceded his career could easily have turned a different way a few years ago.

“Once a few things started happening, I realised I was coming up to my last chance and, if I didn’t turn the corner, things could spiral out of control,” he said.

“Things got to the stage where I knew I needed to knuckle down and make some big changes.

“Making the wrong choices and life comes down to choices whatever you do. Ultimately it is your choice. For many years, I was making the wrong ones and it was culminating in a lot of bad outcomes. I realised I had to eliminate some of those but it’s paid dividends as I’ve delivered my best performances with Wakefield and played for England.”

Former Arsenal and England captain Adams, whose own charity Sporting Chance does so much to support people within rugby league, took over as RFL president in July.

He said: “Reece is showing young people, at their lowest ebb, that prison isn’t the end of the world, that they can still fulfil their potential and look to a brighter future.

“He’s passionate about what he does and driven to make a difference to young people’s lives. For their part young people at Wetherby have learned to trust Reece and confide in him, and it’s testimony to the strength of their bond that he’s been asked to continue his support.

“Staff at Wetherby have noticed positive changes too since Reece has been mentoring them. He is making an invaluable contribution to the lives of young people. He is also building his portfolio of skills that will help equip him for a varied and successful career post-playing – something I feel really passionate about as RFL President.”

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer added: “It’s wonderful Tony has chosen Reece. He is a credit to himself, Wakefield Trinity and our sport. His work reminds us of how rugby league reaches people and communities often excluded or marginalised, and it changes lives.”