Bullies made me become a professional rugby player - Leeds Rhinos player Brad Dwyer speaks out on social media abuse
After moving schools due to being bullied and covering up part of his face for years Brad Dwyer decided this would be the motivation for him to become a professional sportsman.
He wanted to give people some other reason to talk about him other than his physical appearance and his own self-doubt.
Originally from Wigan, where rugby is just as popular as it is in Leeds, the 27-year-old signed for Leeds Rhinos in 2017 where he plays as a hooker in the Betfred Super League.
As he speaks to the Yorkshire Evening Post as part of our 'Call It Out' campaign, which aims to tackle online and social media abuse, he reveals some of the abuse he gets online but how it helped him come to a decision about how he lived his life.
He said: "There were a lot of thing I was not dealing with in my life, I was not happy with myself. I spoke out in public about my birthmark and did find, that through this process, I figured that it created the motivation for me to be successful. Instead of people looking at that and seeing something different and something that I did not like I would rather be famous or successful in a sport.
"That gave me a determination to push myself. Now when I look back at my career, I would not be where I am now if it was not for that motivation as a rugby player - not somebody that has a birthmark."
He explained: "It affected me when I was younger. The comments that were made to me put me in a position where I had to cover my face up. Since I spoke out about it, everyone jumped on board and I don't think many people would say much about it now because I had that much good reaction from the publicity."
However, just last week he was tweeted by someone saying they teach their toddler how to count because of how many bad passes he makes in a game. Another one said they wouldn't be on TV if they had a face like that.
While he says he is better now at not being affected by trolling and vile online comments, putting them down to bitterness and jealousy, he feels there needs to be more accountability from social media platforms and education and awareness as to how it may affect people.
He tells of friends who have moved from Australia, where rugby is more popular than here, to England to play because there is less pressure, but, also speaks of people that have played at Leeds and moved to clubs in lower leagues with a lower profile because "life is so much easier".
Dwyer added: "I have got to perform well, people are within their rights to comment on that but when it is personal to make someone feel better that is where it is wrong. I am in a place where I have dealt with that and those comments do not mean anything. People are just saying it and there is no thought behind it, but it is difficult to hear.
"When I was a kid, bullying was a big thing at school. We were told we should not do it, it was name calling. I don't know if that still goes on but I imagine it got better with awareness.
"Social media is pretty new now compared and everyone is getting to grips with it. A lot of people are speaking about trolling and the effect it has. Until we start getting to the point where people are taking their lives and suffering from depression - that is when people become aware that it is not acceptable. But it has to change, people can't just go online and not be held accountable for what they are saying."
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