Alex Walmsley’s dislocated kneecap and other eye-watering rugby league injuries

Two days before playing in last year’s unforgettable Grand Final, Alex Walmsley was at home having his dislocated knee replaced via a specialist on FaceTime.

The towering St Helens prop’s eye-watering injury is the latest example of rugby league’s gladiators defying remarkable pain in the line of duty. The sport has been littered with heroic stories of players going above and beyond for their clubs and team-mates, including shattered cheekbones, broken arms and ruptured testicles.

Now the Saints medical team has lifted the lid on the extent to which Walmsley went to play. The 30-year-old front rower first suffered the injury in the semi-final win over Catalans, resulting in his meniscus (the cartilage in his knee) continually popping in and out of place.

Two days before the game it happened again, leading to the FaceTime with a knee consultant to replace it in his front room. Saints staff say Walmsley suffered “a significant amount of pain and insecurity” ahead of the Grand Final, but that he was determined to feature after an outstanding season at prop.

He underwent surgery shortly after the game and the extended pre-season means he is now fully fit again ahead of tonight’s opener with promoted Leigh Centurions. Walmsley himself insists he never had any intention of missing out against Wigan. He explained: “It couldn’t have come at a worst possible time.

“But it’s a Grand Final and, as long as you can put some boots on and you can strap some things up, you are always going to get out there and do the best you can for your team. The physio had to drive an hour and a half to my house to put my knee back in place because it dislocated and wasn’t as it should be.

“The cartilage had popped out again and I couldn’t straighten my leg. The physio was on Facetime to the specialist and it took two hours to put it back in. The likelihood of any further damage was negligible and the operation was always going to happen. It was more than uncomfortable playing the game and I wasn’t at my best that night. But it was all worthwhile and I’d go through it all again to go through those moments.”


Paul Wood (Warrington, 2012)

The front rower made headlines across the world when he played on in the Wolves’ Grand Final defeat to Leeds despite rupturing his testicle early in the second half. Wood later had it removed and tweeted “Just coming out of the hospital… feels like I’ve left something”.

Alan Prescott (Great Britain, 1958)

Prescott led the Lions to an iconic Battle of Brisbane win despite badly breaking his arm in the first half. With no subs then and already down to 12 men with Dale Bolton off with a broken collarbone, Prescott’s heroics helped win the Ashes.

Sam Burgess (South Sydney, 2014)

The England forward displayed remarkable courage by producing a man of the match performance in the Grand Final win over Canterbury despite shattering his cheekbone in the very first minute of the game.

Joe Westerman (Hull FC, 2019)

The now Wakefield back-rower stunned television views by slapping his dislocated kneecap back into place on the field before running to a scrum. Coach Lee Radford later revealed it had happened several times before.

Bernard Dwyer (Bradford, 2000)

Dwyer wrote himself into folklore by playing on in his final ever game despite having torn both biceps. Team-mate Robbie Paul later compared him to the indestructible Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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