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Lowestoft and Yarmouth Rugby Club rallies around Josh after heart condition ends his rugby career at just 11

PUBLISHED: 12:48 05 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:48 05 November 2017

Josh Millar,11, who has had to give up rugby due to a heart condition, with coach Nick Phillips, dad Spencer and mum Karen. Picture: David Hannant

Josh Millar,11, who has had to give up rugby due to a heart condition, with coach Nick Phillips, dad Spencer and mum Karen. Picture: David Hannant

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It is a moment every athlete dreads, but ultimately will face - the day they are told they can no longer play the sport they love.

Josh Millar,11, who has had to give up rugby due to a heart condition Picture: David HannantJosh Millar,11, who has had to give up rugby due to a heart condition Picture: David Hannant

However, for rugby-mad Josh Millar this day has come far too soon, as he is just 11 years old.

The Gorleston lad has been a member of Lowestoft and Yarmouth Rugby Club since he was just six, however, due to a heart condition he has had to take the earliest of retirements.

Josh Millar,11, who has had to give up rugby due to a heart condition, with mum Karen. Picture: David HannantJosh Millar,11, who has had to give up rugby due to a heart condition, with mum Karen. Picture: David Hannant

Josh, of Cambridge Avenue, suffers from an illness called aortic stenosis, meaning two of his heart valves have become entwined, restricting blood flow.

As a consequence, he requires open heart surgery and has had to hang up his boots and give up the sport he loves.

Josh Millar,11, who has had to give up rugby due to a heart condition, with mum Karen. Picture: David HannantJosh Millar,11, who has had to give up rugby due to a heart condition, with mum Karen. Picture: David Hannant

Now, the club is rallying around him and his family, as they look to raise funds to install a defibrillator near his home.

Josh said: “We first knew there was a problem when I woke up one night breathing heavier than usual. I went into my mum’s bedroom and told her, so we went to A&E.”

Originally thought to be a heart murmur, tests and a visit from a Great Ormond Street Hospital doctor revealed Josh’s condition, sadly ending his rugby career.

He added: “I was actually getting ready for training when my mum and dad told me the news. It was quite hard to take and it made me really upset.”

Mum Karen Millar, 38, said it was initially hoped after time he would be able to play again, but it soon became apparent that he would never be able to play full contact rugby again.

She said: “Rugby is a really big thing for him and telling him was incredibly different, but he has taken it all in his stride. We are very proud of him.”

The family are now hoping to raise funds to buy a defibrillator, after Mrs Millar and husband Spencer, 45, contacted Jayne Biggs of Heart to Heart.

Mrs Millar added: “We want to install a defibrillator near our home rather than in it, as if we had one in the home it would be no use to the wider community.

“It’s something you obviously never hope to have to use, but having it there would be such a comfort.”

Nick Phillips, Josh’s rugby coach, has been instrumental in helping the family’s campaign.

He said: “Josh has been with us for the best part of six years and is still a massive part of the club, so we are keen to do anything we can to help.”

Rugby club’s fundraising efforts

Lowestoft and Yarmouth Rugby Club, which is based in Corton, has pledged its unconditional support to Josh’s cause.

Already, it has raised more than £100 towards the defibrillator, through a bake sale organised by some of the parents of their young players.

Members have also provided further donations, with £230 currently pledged to a Just Giving page set up by the coach.

The next fundraiser it has organised is a raffle, which is to be drawn at the Minis Christmas party on December 16.

Mr Phillips is now looking to business to pledge prizes for the raffle, to ensure they sell as many tickets as possible.

The club is also backing Josh’s cause by holding a special CPR training event on November 26.

To pledge a prize for the raffle, contact Mr Phillips on 07913347351.

To donate, visit the club’s Just Giving page.

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