Kiwi rugby league legend Dean Bell has revealed he took to the field for a must-win UK Super League match just 48 hours after undergoing a vasectomy.

League administrators and promoters pride the code on being one of the most gladiatorial of sports; where its top-level stars regularly defy the pain barrier to chase sporting glory.

That includes John Sattler inspiring South Sydney to 1970 ARL grand final victory despite playing the final 70 minutes with a broken jaw and former Kiwis captain Mark Graham refusing to leave the field multiple times in his career despite suffering a myriad of broken bones.

Bell – who played 26 tests for the Kiwis and also captained the national team – has revealed his own pain-defying on-field heroics in the new book, Blue and Amber Voices – Stories from Leeds Rugby League.

That saw the then Leeds head coach make a one-off playing return two days after undergoing a vasectomy, in a bid to save his club from relegation from Super League.

“The worse thing or the most stupid thing was that I had forgotten I was booked in for a vasectomy a couple of days before the game,” Bell told the book’s author James Oddy.

“So, I ended up having that procedure.

“And let’s just say I was a little bit mindful of protecting a certain part of my body going into contact, but I was very lucky I didn’t get any hits in that region.”

Looking back, Bell said he now realised his playing in the tail end of the 1996 Super League was a “dumb thing” to do so soon after the medical procedure to his groin.

Advice given to men who undergo a vasectomy includes avoiding strenuous exercise, taking painkillers and relaxing.

But medical advice went out the window due to a fear his beloved English club – who he first played for in 1983 – could be relegated if they lost to Paris Saint-Germain.

“I didn’t want to be a part of a Leeds team that got relegated,” Bell said.

“That was something I could never comprehend.

“I am thinking about the game, looking at options we had for centre that week. I said to my manager I think I can play better than any of those player options that could play right-centre.

“I was just so determined to make it happen, to show what the Leeds club meant to me.”

Bell - one of the greats of New Zealand rugby league - went on to score a try, Leeds won and also avoided the dreaded relegation zone.

‘For me to put it as not ideal is probably an understatement’

Bell had signed on to become assistant coach to Doug Laughton at Leeds for the 1996 season in the UK; a year on from captaining the Auckland Warriors in their inaugural season in the Winfield Cup.

He took the role in a bid to start a coaching apprenticeship which would hopefully lead to a head coaching position several years later.

That pathway was accelerated for him unbeknownst to him as he travelled to Leeds.

“I jumped on the plane with my family, and somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, Dougie Laughton resigned,” Bell recalled.

“So, I landed there, and I remember one of the directors picking me up, saying congratulations, you are now the head coach.

“It was not how I wanted it to be. For me to put it as not ideal is probably an understatement.”

Bell is one of seven high-profile New Zealand players who open up about their time at the famous English league club in Blue and Amber Voices.

Others who have chapters on their time at the club include Craig Innes, Kevin Iro, Tony Kemp, Gary Mercer. Ali Lauiti’iti and Kylie Leuluai.

The latter is the most successful overseas player in Leeds’ history. His CV includes six Super League grand final wins, two Challenge Cup victories and two World Club titles.

‘Financially, it made a lot of sense’

Innes is widely regarded as one of the famous league club’s greatest centres.

He joined the club after shocking the rugby world by calling time on what looked to be a lengthy career in the All Blacks aged just 22.

Innes had earlier made his test rugby debut as a 19-year-old in 1989, playing his 17th and final test during the 1991 Rugby World Cup just 50 days after his 22nd birthday.

In Blue and Amber Voices, Innes explained his decision to quit rugby – then a strictly amateur code – was both a financial one, as well as a chance to try something new.

“I’d be lying if I said becoming a professional sportsman wasn’t a driving force in wanting to change codes,” Innes said in the book.

“It was a big decision to make as I was at the start of my All Blacks career, so it was a shock to people that I was giving it up. But I got it into my head it was a short career and I needed to make the most of it; financially it made a lot of sense.”

Innes said when he travelled to the World Cup he felt it was “probably going to be the last time I played rugby union”.

“A lot of Australian rugby league clubs were starting to ask questions,” he said in Blue and Amber Voices, which is published by Pitch Publishing.

“And I probably thought it was more likely that I’d end up in an Australian club. But after the World Cup, I stayed behind and played for Bedford, some rugby union, just as something to do for a few months.”

During that stint he was approached by Leeds, signing on in the professional code.

Innes – now a player agent – later switched back to rugby union in 1998, before retiring in 2001.

Neil Reid is a Napier-based senior reporter who covers general news, features and sport. He joined the Herald in 2014 and has 30 years of newsroom experience.

2024-06-08T17:03:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd