Inspirational deaf rugby player looking forward to England V Wales clash

Josh Page, Oaklands College's first deaf student to be part of its rugby academy in St Albans

Josh Page, Oaklands College's first deaf student to be part of its rugby academy in St Albans - Credit: Photo supplied

When the ref blows the whistle during a rugby game, more often than not, 18-year-old Josh Page continues charging towards the try line.

But it is not because the teenager is being rude – it is just that he cannot hear the whistle as he is profoundly deaf.

A former pupil of Heathlands, a special school for deaf children in St Albans, Josh became the first deaf person to join a rugby academy at Oaklands College, Hatfield Road.

He is also part of England Deaf Rugby Union (EDRU), which has described its signing, who began representing the country in April last year, as a “talented” player.

Asked what gives him an edge in the tough sport, Josh told the Herts Advertiser he had good peripheral vision and was “very aware of what is going on around me on the pitch”.

However, there is one exception: “When the whistle blows, I keep on going because I can’t hear it – until someone tells me to stop!

“I’ve never had any problems playing the sport; I just focus on the rugby.”

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Josh began playing tag-rugby as a seven year old in his hometown of Luton, where he was the only deaf team mate.

Playing as either hooker or flanker, he enjoys the challenge of the sport and asserts, “being deaf isn’t an issue”.

One of the biggest challenges upon arriving at Oaklands, however, was going from a quiet environment at Heathlands, where everybody communicated with sign language, to a college where he was the only deaf student on the rugby programme and no-one at the academy knew how to do so.

But he had a lot of support and many of his peers learned to sign so they could speak with him. He is still friends with many.

His proud mum, Karen, said: “Josh went from a small school to a big campus. It was the making of him coming here, because of the staff. Lots of his fellow students picked up on signing, so he felt really included here.

“The main thing was to not have Josh feel he was different, but for Oaklands to help him reach his potential. The college helped him progress to becoming part of the hearing world, after being part of a deaf environment, where everyone signs – it was a big step.”

Josh volunteers with ‘Ruggerbugs’, a pre-school sports development programme based around non-contact rugby for girls and boys. Its aim is to instil a passion for sport at a young age.

He also volunteers at Lonsdale School in Stevenage for physically and neurologically impaired young people aged from three to 18 years.

Having recently completed a sports diploma at Oaklands, Josh is taking a gap year and plans to attend university, as he hopes to eventually to go into special needs teaching.

In the meantime, he is looking forward to playing Wales when the EDRU faces its opposition this Saturday, March 12.

The EDRU has described Josh as an inspirational young man for promoting deaf awareness to children.

He has adapted coaching skills gained at college through his diploma in sport development, coaching and fitness to suit young ones at Ruggerbugs.

The EDRU said his young charges were learning that they needed to attract his attention in different ways, and they were learning to use gestures and facial expressions “without even realising they are learning deaf awareness”.