Leroy Cudjoe: The wing's speech: How Giant came to terms with his stammer

Huddersfield playmaker tells Dave Hadfield why this is his first interview and how he used a film as inspiration to reach his goals

It was the outstanding moment of skill of the Super League season so far – Leroy Cudjoe's instinctive one-handed back-flipped pass, thrown over 20 metres at full speed, to set up a try against St Helens in May.

You will not have heard about it first-hand, however, because Leroy doesn't talk. Or rather, he does, but with some difficulty.

The versatile Huddersfield and England back has spent the first few years of his career avoiding interviews with as much agility as he avoids tackles. His club and country have been meticulously protective in keeping him out of the spotlight.

It is not that he objects in principle to sharing his thoughts, just that he remains self-conscious about a speech impediment that makes it all so much of a struggle.

"If someone sticks a recorder in front of me, then goes away and plays it back, they won't be able to understand me," he says. "I just don't see the point." That is how he has become one of the top couple of dozen players in the country, without anyone knowing much about him.

So it is with some trepidation that he comes to the appropriate venue of Huddersfield's George Hotel – the birthplace of the code when it split from rugby union in 1895 – to break his duck. The old technology – a notebook and a leaky biro – helps and, piece by piece, the story comes out.

The Cudjoes come from the island of Grenada. "My grandma and grandad came over and settled in Huddersfield," he says. Their adopted town has acquired more of a Caribbean flavour to its rugby league than anywhere in the north of England. The Giants team that is third in Super League going into tomorrow night's match at Warrington, includes two other local West Indians – Jermaine McGillvary and the recipient of that famous pass, Michael Lawrence. There are others who have moved on and more on their way through the junior ranks.

At 23, Cudjoe was born a little too late to bask in the sunshine that was Henderson Gill, but he came under the coaching influence of two hard-nut forwards who played with distinction for Huddersfield and Leeds, Darren Fleary and Anthony Farrell.

"I learned a lot from them," he says. "Huddersfield is very multi-cultural and there's a lot of talent. It's just a matter of keeping them interested, but I was always keen. Whatever it took, I'd get there."

Leroy was introduced to the game by his other grandparents, lifelong Huddersfield fans, and by the age of 11 was playing for his local side, Newsome Panthers, usually, despite his small stature at the time, with the age group a couple of years above him. "That was until I was 15, when I had a growth spurt."

That has resulted in a player with an enviable combination of size and pace that has enabled him to play for the Giants everywhere from full-back and wing to stand-off. "But I prefer centre, that suits my style of play best." That was what England thought when they took him to the Four Nations in Australia and New Zealand last year and gave him his Test debut.

It was quite an achievement for a young man who has always had to work around his communication problems. It is not something that affects him unduly on the field; he has never been tongue-tied calling for the ball, for instance.

Nor can he recall ever being baited by the opposition. "I don't think a lot of them know about it," he says.

This being rugby league, though, his own team-mates are a subtly different matter. Nothing is off-limits in the changing room banter.

"There's a couple of them get stuck into me, but I'm comfortable with it. When I'm with the lads, it's not a problem. It just flows."

There isn't a lot in common between the Cudjoes and the Windsors, but he made a point of going to see The King's Speech the multi-award winning film about King George VI's struggle with his stammer.

He felt an affinity with the story and drew a measure of inspiration from it, but it is his own experience that has convinced him that "whatever's in your way, you can achieve your goals".

For the wing – or full-back or centre or whatever – as opposed to the king, that means maintaining his form in a Huddersfield side that has a realistic chance of winning Super League this season and regaining his England place this autumn.

Work like the creation of that try against Saints can only help his cause. "It was instinct. I get as much satisfaction from making a try as scoring one. I've never been all about scoring tries in vast numbers. If I have the opportunity to put someone else in, I'm just as happy with that."

Off the field, he has plans to join a course offered by Sport England for stammerers, but has always been busy with his rugby when the meetings have taken place. Beyond that, he would like to help younger people who are striving as he has had to do.

The more successful Cudjoe and the Giants become, the more potential he has to be a role model. He believes they have no excuse for not going all the way together this time.

"Bringing in players like Danny Brough and Luke O'Donnell has given us experience from both Britain and Australia. We have a good combination now," he says.

Then there is Nathan Brown, the coach who has nurtured his talent for the last three years. He is now committed to staying with the club, after many blamed uncertainty over his future for them losing their way last season. Cudjoe isn't having that as an excuse for last year. "It was nothing to do with it. A lot of teams have a bad spell during the season."

He does not have any intention of repeating that this year, even if he lets his rugby do most of the talking.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition