Broken body, strong spirit

25 June 2024

Sport has played a big role in Leading Seaman Harley Dodds’ life.

First grabbing hold of a football and motorbike as a three-year-old, the now 26-year-old Cronulla-based Navy marine technician has jammed in 17 years of rugby league, motorbike racing, short-form athletics, cricket, soccer, surfing and skateboarding.

A multitude of knee and ankle issues put that sporting participation on hold for a couple of years, but now Leading Seaman Dodds is taking on athletics, indoor rowing, powerlifting and wheelchair rugby at the Warrior Games in the US.

An annual adaptive sports competition, the US Department of Defense’s Warrior Games brings together hundreds of wounded, injured and ill serving and former-serving US military members alongside a team of 30 competitors from across Australia.

“Since completely snapping my ankle and having reconstruction surgery, and then having knee surgery, I haven’t been able to play any team sports,” Leading Seaman Dodds said.

“After learning that I was able to apply for the games and possibly get in the team, I just thought, why not have a crack.”

Originally hurting his knee 10 years ago in recruit school, and again four years later playing footy, the 10-year Navy serviceman’s injuries escalated in 2022 while playing rugby league for the Navy Tridents.

An opposing player landed hard in a tackle, pushing their whole weight on Leading Seaman Dodds’ ankle, resulting in a fracture of the fibula and a complete rupture of some ligaments. Ankle surgery followed, with his ankle now held together by a tightrope acting as his ligament. Recovery then exacerbated his knee issues, which then required surgery.

Now on the rehabilitation and recovery journey, the impetus to apply for the Warrior Games came after seeing two mates successfully compete at last year’s Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany. Witnessing the positive effects of reintegration into sport after injuries is what gave Leading Seaman Dodds the confidence to put his hand up for this year’s games in Orlando.

And while it wasn’t initially the reason for becoming involved, the former Sunshine Coast resident said being able to bring his parents, John and Kate Dodds, to the games was a highlight.

“My father is an ex-vet who has struggled with his mental health for his whole life and got some quite severe injuries as well,” Leading Seaman Dodds said.

“He’s been in some pretty dark places and he really loves talking to me about my career.

“My dad’s been by my side in all my sporting life from a junior all the way up, then he’s been a big part of my Navy career and helping me in that aspect of life.

“Then my mum has been my rock for all my mental health side of things; she’s been the one who’s supported me and been my shoulder to cry on when I’ve needed someone.”

The games are under way until June 30 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.



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