Australian Rugby 7's captain James Stannard. Picture: Toby Zerna
Australian Rugby 7's captain James Stannard. Picture: Toby Zerna

Sevens captain Stannard speaks after coward punch

"HEARTBROKEN." In one word, James "Chucky" Stannard - the beating heat of Australia's men's sevens team - emotionally encapsulated his feelings after being coward punched in the early hours of Friday morning.

What started as a celebration for departing coach Andy Friend turned into a near-death experience, as the acting Australian Sevens captain was attacked in Coogee while waiting outside a kebab shop with teammates and coaching staff.

The alleged attacker, British man Sam Oliver, 22, attempted to flee the scene, but was brought down by teammate Ben O'Donnell with the assistance of fellow teammate Lewi Holland and Friend, who held him until police arrived.

He has since been charged and is expected to appear at Waverley Local Court on April 19.

Stannard, 35, was left with a fractured skill as a result, thereby ruling him out of captaining his country at this week's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

But it could have been that much worse.

"Yeah I'm very lucky," Stannard said on Monday after being discharged from hospital on Sunday.

James Stannard addressing the media about the future of his playing career.
James Stannard addressing the media about the future of his playing career.

"I've got a fractured skull, a little bit of bleeding. I don't really know the full extent of it, I'm not a doctor, that just sounds bad to me.

"I'm very lucky to be here."

Remnants of the attack still showed on Monday afternoon, with blood clearly visible in his right ear.

His 50 metre walk over from the car park to the awaiting media at Hitchcock Park in Avalon was the longest he'd done since the attack.

"Quick movements" and "walking" have since made him feel dizzy and sluggish, he explained.

No one would have batted an eye lid had he wished to remain at home to rest and recover.

But such is his character that he wanted to share the news that he was OK and would make a full recovery.

"Overwhelming. I can't believe it (the support), Stannard said.

James Stannard.
James Stannard.

"Friendy has been amazing through this whole time, he's been by my side for most of it, nearly all of it, same with Kim (Stannard's wide) and the girls and my teammates.

"My bond's amazing with those blokes.

"I don't know if I'd be here without those blokes.

"I've messaged them personally and words can't describe how much I appreciate them being there."

For a man eager to enjoy the twilight of his career before calling time after July's World Cup, the Commonwealth Games was supposed to be a moment to celebrate.

He will now watch from a distance, either from his home or on the Gold Coast should his health allow him to be there.

"Yeah I'll get over it," Stannard said.

"Football's just a small part of your life. I've got a family and something to go to after football. That's more important than footy. I'm just glad I'm here to enjoy those moments with them.

"The Comm Games is very small thing.

"Maybe now (it hurts), but further down the track it doesn't mean as much as family does."

The immediate priority is to rest.

But despite his life threatening injury, Stannard remains optimistic of taking the field later this year and has been told.

"I spoke to (injured captain) Lewi and (forward) Jesse Parahi last night actually and we spoke about it then (making a comeback) too because this is my last year and I've got limited opportunities to play," Stannard said.

"This is a setback for that, but I spoke to them last night and we discussed I'll try everything I can to get right for the World Cup and have one last dance with those blokes.

"The next couple of weeks is very important that I get as much rest as I can.

"They said in six weeks I can start training, but that all depends on how things are going."



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