Coach returns from horror injury to launch Fenland’s first rugby league team

A RUGBY coach whose playing career was ended when his face was shattered in a tackle has returned to Fenland to launch the district’s first ever rugby league team.

Ash Howlett, originally from March, suffered blood clots on his brain after diving to tackle an opponent when playing for Leamington Royals last year.

The 24-year-old’s cheeks, nose and skull were fractured in the sickening collision, which saw his eyeball knocked out of its socket.

His family watched from the sidelines as he was airlifted to hospital, where surgeons fought to save his face by inserting titanium plates into his cheek.

Almost a year later, Mr Howlett, a level two development coach for the Rugby Football League, is launching the first rugby league team in Fenland’s history - the Fenland Foxes.

He said: “My eye came out on my cheek and sat there. I pushed it back in instinctively. I couldn’t see out of it properly for months.

“I didn’t leave hospital for four weeks and I didn’t leave my house for about another two months. It was a massive knock but it didn’t stop my love for rugby league. The sport has pretty much become my life.

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“I’m living the dream really because I do it for a job. Every day I miss playing and I would like nothing more than to be able to play for Fenland but I’m involved with the game and that’s what matters.

“I’m quite happy coaching for now. I just want to introduce people to rugby league and make it more of a sport in Fenland. I want to be involved long-term with the Fenland Foxes. It’s my home town club and I want to see them grow.”

Mr Howlett began playing rugby union for Wisbech’s junior sides. He played rugby league for Cambridge Eagles and the Welsh Army side before starting a team at his university.

The 24-year-old coach led his first Fenland Foxes traning session on Tuesday at Harecroft Road, Wisbech. He said: “Some doctors have said don’t play again but others have said that technically I could.

“The biggest thing against playing is that I never want to put my family through anything like what happened again. For about 24 hours I was in a really bad way.

“I have always said that I don’t want the last thing I ever do on a rugby pitch to be being carried off injured. It’s possible that I could return one day but we’ll see.”

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