FIGHTER: Niko with his wife Carolyn and children Aiseah (16), Noah (8), Jonah (4) and baby Laisa.
FIGHTER: Niko with his wife Carolyn and children Aiseah (16), Noah (8), Jonah (4) and baby Laisa.

Why popular league star Niko will not give up after stroke

LEAGUE legend and father of four, Niko Vakararawa, isn't one to feel sorry for himself.

The fit 39-year-old, who had never smoked, had a stroke while coaching U/16 Marist Brothers rugby league team in June, which has left him with physical deficits on his left-hand side.

The former plumber and sole breadwinner may never drive again, nor be able to ply his trade, but according to friends and family he hasn't lost his sense of humour and has refused to let his rehabilitation plateau.

According to family member Michael Willemsen, the former Fijian World Cup player has shown steady improvement thanks to a positive mindset.

"The biggest step in his recovery was being back at home and around his family. Since then he has had gradual improvements with mobility and is working on strengthening his left arm.

"He has issues with his peripheral vision. But he has processes in play to improve that and he is teaching himself to be more cognisant of the left side of body," said Mr Willemsen.

According to his wife Carolyn, when you put a ball in Niko's hands, it's like his body almost defaults back to normal again.

Community backed

There is still an unknown road ahead for Niko and Carolyn and their children Aiseah, 16, Noah, 8, Jonah, 4, and Laisa, 1.

However what the self-employed plumber lacks in income insurance or financial safety nets, he makes up for in friendships and good karma.

Mr Willemsen said, "This is a man that has provided to many in the the community through his trade, though his sport, his friendships. Now everyone he has helped is giving back to him.

"First and foremost he is an elite sportsperson. But he is also a small businessman, and married into the large Mackney family. He is part of his kids' school community - he has such a broad reach. They have all rallied. His will be a long journey but those same people will be there for that journey."

A Night for Niko

Friends and family have organised a fundraiser night -- A Night for Niko.

The event includes a 3-course meal at Trinity Catholic College, October 15. 5.30pm start. Smart casual. Tickets are $100 per head. RSVP by October 3. Contact 6626 6855 or email

Funds will help with home modifications and rehabilitation equipment.

To donate today, visit the crowdfunding site.

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