Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - BEN JAMES ben.james@waleson­

D ECEMBER 31, 2011. While most of us are ring­ing in the New Year and mak­ing wishes for the 12 months ahead, Joseph Daly, fed up of an end­less cy­cle of crime and heroin ad­dic­tion that has driven him be­yond the point of de­pres­sion, has just one res­o­lu­tion – to end it all.

Hav­ing flip­pantly stolen some elec­tronic goods from Asda ear­lier in the day, Joseph re­turns home and takes a large amount of Val­ium, hop­ing to ease the anx­i­ety that crip­ples him.

Des­per­ate to take away the pain and de­spair that comes from be­ing hooked on drugs from the age of 15, he attempts to take his own life.

Nearly six years on from this shock­ing turn of events, Joseph is alive.

Now 27, he can be found clean­ing out a ruck and drip­ping with sweat as he urges his team-mates on.

The previous week­end he had com­pleted a 105-mile bike ride and now he pushes ev­ery sinew of his body, seem­ingly buoyed by the ca­ma­raderie of be­ing in a team – a ca­ma­raderie he has never known be­fore.

In three weeks, Joseph, along with his new-found friends, will take to the field for a rugby match. For some, it will be their first.

But for all of them, hav­ing come from a place of dark­ness few of us will thank­fully ever know, rugby has been the road to re­demp­tion.

This sec­ond chance has been af­forded by the School of Hard Knocks – a char­ity which uses rugby as a way of tack­ling the is­sues sur­round­ing un­em­ploy­ment, crime and health.

Hav­ing been the sub­ject of a Sky se­ries fea­tur­ing Scott Quin­nell and Will Green­wood, it works with in­di­vid­u­als to help them take re­spon­si­bil­ity and take pos­i­tive steps for­ward in their lives.

The class of ’17 has seen 20 lads from South Wales – all with vary­ing back­grounds and rugby ex­pe­ri­ence – come to­gether with train­ing on and off the field.

The pro­gramme will cul­mi­nate with a jobs fair in the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium on Septem­ber 13 be­fore a match against Caer­lau Ely RFC two days later.

While Quin­nell, Green­wood and the Sky Sports cam­eras are ab­sent this time around, there is one Hard Knocks “vet­eran” who can of­fer this year’s class some wis­dom.

Course fa­cil­i­ta­tor Liam Mackay, 27, found him­self un­em­ployed back in 2015, when the char­ity gave him a sec­ond chance as he spent eight weeks with them – land­ing a job with Ar­riva Trains Wales when he fin­ished.

“Then School of Hard Knocks started an of­fice in Wales and they took me on full time,” he ex­plains. “Now I’m run­ning the course back on my home patch in Ely.

“I know ev­ery­thing we do works so it’s

just get­ting across to the boys that if you stick at it, we can get you some em­ploy­ment at the end of the eight weeks.”

Liam is proof that this course can be a shot at re­demp­tion, work­ing on the mantra adopted by distin­guished Amer­i­can talk­show host Oprah Win­frey: “If you are still breath­ing, you have a sec­ond chance”.

While he has likely never heard of her, let alone this ob­scure quote, no­body has pushed that ideal to­wards be­com­ing a re­al­ity more than Joseph – a man who has been ar­rested more than 100 times in his life­time.

His New Year’s Eve suicide at­tempt was ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful.

“That was the first time I tried hang­ing my­self, but it wasn’t the last,” The 27-year-old de­scribes can­didly, his elo­quent man­ner at odds with the stereo­typ­i­cal cliches of a heroin ad­dict.

“I’ve tried drug over­doses on pur­pose, in­ject­ing so I don’t wake up – yet I’d al­ways wake up.

“To this day, I don’t know what kept bring­ing me back but look at me now.”

In­deed, there is a sense of pride in

Joseph Daly, right, with his fa­ther Robert

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