Woolgoolga forward Sammy van Hammond ponders his future after a career-ending spinal injury. submitted
Woolgoolga forward Sammy van Hammond ponders his future after a career-ending spinal injury. submitted

Woolgoolga forward begins recovery

PLANS for a benefit night to assist Woolgoolga rugby league player Sammy van Hammond and his young family are being drawn up.

The Seahorses forward suffered a career-ending injury in the match at Port Macquarie on August 15 and that night found himself in Royal North Shore Hospital’s spinal unit.

The following day he underwent surgery to repair a C5/6 joint dislocation and spinal cord compression.

While coach Steve Gooley said healing will come in time, the road to recovery will be long and painstaking.

“Sammy is still only 20 but he’s a tough kid,” he said.

“I was at the hospital with his partner Gracie and his mum who’ll take care of him until he’s well enough to come home to Coffs Harbour.

“The doctor explained he was very lucky to escape serious spinal cord damage but is still weak with his arms and is in a serious neck brace.

“The good news is he will recover with extensive physio and rehab.”

Van Hammond made a huge impression during what turned out to be just one local season and was close to his side’s best forward.

“Anyone who has watched Sammy play football knows he was an 80-minute front or second-rower who threw his body on the line constantly,” Gooley remarked.

“He provided bull-like charges in attack and some ferocious defence which lots of opposition forwards in Group 2 can testify to, so you can only imagine what this injury has done to him.

“Sam is 100 per cent confident and determined to do all the rehab that’s necessary to get him back to peak fitness.

“For a young bloke he’s very mature for his age, with two little girls and partner Grace to care for.

“When the doctor told him his footy days were over he waited until Grace and mum were not looking and gave me a smile and a wink and said ‘we will see what happens, bro’.”

Gooley said doctors praised the work of club trainer Hughey Burns and explained if there’d been a wrong step in treatment on the field it would have resulted in permanent injury.

“Hughey’s handling of the incident was nothing short of first class and Sammy was enormously grateful for this, as were his family.

“Thanks must also go to the ambos at Port, Ben Byrne’s much better half Monique who looked after Grace and club president Darren Hopkins who also spent the afternoon and half the night at the hospital.

“Sammy’s mum asked me to pass on her eternal gratitude to all the people responsible for looking after her son so well.”

One of the family’s great reliefs was the offer made by employer Allan Johnson of AJ Pipelines to keep Sammy’s job open for when he’s fit enough to return.

Since the accident the popularity of the young footballer has seen an outpouring of offers of support with a benefit night planned for Friday, September 10 at Woolgoolga’s Seaview Tavern.

Peter Barrett and the Men Of League foundation will be heavily involved in the organisation and when word reached the Masters Of Rugby League committee, holding their national carnival in Coffs Harbour in October, secretary Malcolm Duncan also threw in their support.

Get well messages can be forwarded to Sammy and Grace on email sammy-v11@hotmail.com.

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