Horror rugby injury for Wellington lad
Rugby player Seti Tafua was supposed to arrive back in his hometown of Wellington next week but instead lies paralysed in a Sydney hospital.
The 24-year-old lock is unlikely to walk again after suffering a spinal injury while playing his second-to-last game for Australian club Northern Suburbs on Saturday afternoon.
He was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he had two operations and remains in the spinal unit with no feeling below the waist.
His mother and brother have been flown to Australia by Northern Suburbs to be with him, as friends in Wellington work up plans for a quiz night and auction to raise funds for his recovery.
His sister, Helen Tafua-Karati, was due to fly to Sydney today. She said the injury happened after he hit his head on the ground while entering a ruck.
His C5 and C6 cervical vertebrae fractured, shifting position and damaging his spinal cord.
Doctors had said he was lucky to be alive and, after speaking to him on the phone, Mrs Tafua-Karati said he was in good spirits.
He had received overwhelming support from his friends, including Hurricane Victor Vito and Crusader Robbie Fruean.
One of the toughest things was being unable to satisfy his enormous appetite. "He likes to eat a lot, but it's hard for him to swallow ... he's pretty much on juice at the moment."
Northern Suburbs director of rugby Grahame O'Donnell said the outlook was grim but Tafua was trying to stay positive after regaining consciousness and realising his predicament early on Sunday.
"I spoke to the neurosurgeon and basically it would be a miracle if he's not a paraplegic," O'Donnell said.
"The most likely prognosis is no movement from the waist down. If there's a miracle, there might be limited movement."
Tafua is in his third year at the Northern Sydney club and his plight has had a big effect on his team-mates, in tears when the club doctor outlined the prognosis.
"The boys held it in until they heard the exact prognosis, then there was an outpouring of emotions," O'Donnell said.
"Mrs Tafua also got up and spoke. Of the 30 people in that room, there wasn't a dry eye in the house."
Hurricanes technical assistant Richard Watt, who coached Tafua when he played for the Poneke premier side, described him as "the one that got away".
He joined the team from Scots College in 2007 and it was a sad day when he left for Australia two years later.
"Back then, Scots weren't really a rugby powerhouse and he was a standout ... he was probably a couple of years ahead of himself, really."
A quiz night and auction to raise funds for his recovery has been tentatively scheduled for July 18. Vito and fellow Hurricane Dane Coles, who is also a Poneke club member, have donated jerseys and it is hoped several Hurricanes players will attend.
Anyone wishing to donate can do so at any ANZ branch through the Seti Tafua Appeal Fund.