It speaks volumes about the impact of the Gold Coast Titans Physical Disabilities Rugby League team that one of this country’s most inspirational people was himself inspired to join the Titans and play a part in developing this life-changing program.
Dr Dinesh Palipana made his first appearance as a Titan on Wednesday after volunteering to act as team doctor for the Club’s Physical Disabilities Rugby League and Intellectual Disabilities Rugby League teams in 2020.
Dr Palipana was inspired to be a part of the program after seeing the Titans PDRL team in action last year – a group of young men who have refused to let disability stand in the way of achieving their dream.
It is a story Dr Palipana relates to more than most.
In 2010, halfway through his medical degree at Griffith University, Dr Palipana was involved in a car accident. His spine was dislocated at the neck, and he was left a quadriplegic.
After seven months in a Brisbane spinal unit, Dr Palipana had two choices – to give up on his dream of being a doctor, or to accept the challenge of his new circumstances and finish his medical career.
He is now a member of the emergency department team at Gold Coast University Hospital, and a spokesman for Doctors With Disabilities Australia.
His incredible achievement has been a well-publicised inspiration to many people because of his courage, resilience, persistence and determination to never lose sight of his dream.
They were qualities Dr Palipana saw reflected in the Titans PDRL players, and moved him to reach out to the Club to offer his services as team doctor.
“I have had so many challenges in my journey after having a spinal cord injury, and acquiring a different set of physical skills than I did,” Dr Palipana said. “I have seen what people can do when given the chance.
“When I saw that this was happening, I just thought it was amazing and I loved it.
“I think it is awesome. It is really good to just see them being given a chance – the opportunity to show the world what they are capable of and do something that they love. I can empathise with that. I love seeing it.”
Dr Palipana met the team at the Titans’ “Come and Try Day” for PDRL and IDRL players on Wednesday, and he was mobbed as a hero by his new teammates.
“I felt very welcome and very much at home. It was really nice,” he said.
“Seeing them at training, you can see the light in their eyes. I was also talking to some of the families afterwards, and they were talking about how it brings them together. It is great for the players, and it sends a message to the world as well that ‘we are doing this’.”
Dr Palipana’s circumstances were actually responsible for his first contact with rugby league players, which would ultimately lead to him joining the Titans.
“After I had this accident, I have sunk my life into medicine and thought very little outside of that,” he said. “But I have got to the point now where I can start to explore a few more things.
“A lot of the guys that help me out on a day-to-day basis at home and at work, they are rugby league players. So I have become a part of the sport somewhat indirectly.
“So I have grown to really enjoy it, and like it, and it is awesome to be a part of this.”
For Dr Palipana, joining the Titans as PDRL team doctor has been a way to strengthen his connection with the local community he serves as a doctor, and deepen his love for the Gold Coast.
“It is very special for me. I love the Titans’ approach to just being very community-minded, and I like that they have taken the lead in doing this,” he said.
“For me to be a part of it, it is awesome. I do a lot of work in education and employment in disability. To see something like this happening, by an organisation like this, at this level it is really cool.
“I love the Gold Coast. Before I moved here, I always wanted to live here at some point.
“Now I have been able to build my career here, went to med school here. It is very much home to me.”