We have been lucky enough to get an interview with former Northampton Star and Wales International Rhys Oakley about his career and his own battle.
He enlightens us about how he was a goal kicking number 8, his battle and how the rugby community supported him and the legendary unbeaten season with Hartpury.
RUGBY AGAINST CANCER: Tell us about your Rugby Journey.
RHYS: I Started playing rugby at under 8s for Thornbury RFC, I played all through the minis until 16 then decided to try senior as was pretty big. I joined North Bristol RFC and then moved to Clifton RFC who gave me my 1st team debut just after my 18th birthday as a goal kicking number 8.
After a good season I was asked to join Bristol U21’s where I played until 21 when I was given my First professional contract. It wasn’t long before I was in the first team and being called up for international recognition. From there I moved to Wales with Gwent. Then on to Leeds before heading off to give playing in France a go for a year, I then signed with Saints, after that I started coaching as a player at Plymouth and after 2 years moved to Hartpury to continue my coaching education.
RAC: What’s been the highlight of your playing career?
RHYS: My First start for Bristol, Playing for Wales at the principality also representing Wales 7s at the Commonwealth Games Melbourne. And how about that unbeaten season at Hartpury!
RAC: When were you diagnosed with Cancer and what form of cancer was it?
RHYS: I was diagnosed last year during preseason; I was diagnosed with Germ-cell tumour (same as testicular) in my chest.
RAC: How has the Rugby community supported you?
RHYS: The Rugby community have been incredibly supportive, players I have played with and against, fans and ex coaches all sent supportive messages during my treatment. My teammates at Hartpury did a charity head shave to raise awareness and a target of £5000. *This was divided between Rhys, who has a young family, and the testicular cancer charity “It’s in the Bag”. The RPA Charity were also extremely supportive.
RAC: Do you have any advice for anyone currently dealing with Cancer?
RHYS: Be strong and trust the doctors, believe there is life and good times after the hell that is treatment.
RAC: How important are groups like Rugby Against Cancer in raising awareness and funds?
RHYS: All Cancer charity’s and groups are invaluable to help awareness to support family’s that have to go through this awful diagnosis.
RAC: In 3 words can you describe Rugby Against Cancer?
RAC: Who are your players to watch at the world cup?
RHYS: Liam Williams (Wales) Billy vunipola (Eng) Beauden Barrett (NZ)