DETERMINED: Josh Hunt suffered an infection that nearly killed him.
DETERMINED: Josh Hunt suffered an infection that nearly killed him. Josh Preston

How football helped save this Gympie boy's life

RUGBY LEAGUE: Josh Hunt has faced health challenges hard enough to take the smile off any 12-year-old's face but the inspirational Gympie boy has tackled it all with the same toughness he shows on the footy field every week.

The James Nash State High School student has always loved rugby league but his world changed dramatically when a near-fatal health scare struck at the end of 2017.

One morning he got a temperature and didn't want to get out of bed, which his mother Jodie knew was "very rare” for a usually energetic young man.

Hospital staff initially told Mrs Hunt he was probably just suffering from a cold but Josh's temperature kept rising until she couldn't wait any longer.

The Gympie Times' Player of the Week

- Week 1: Patrick Harris (Gympie Cats - AFL)

- Week 2: Rohan Polley (Gympie United - Soccer)

- Week 3: Josh Hunt (Brothers - Rugby League)

Josh recovering from his illness.
Josh recovering from his illness. Contributed

"I rushed him back up to the hospital,” she said.

"They were about to send me home again but it was lucky one of the nurses knew Josh ... and said 'no, this is not right for this kid'.

"Within half an hour he was transferred down to the Sunshine Coast and his body was already in failure. His blood had gone septic and he was in intensive care. They were going to fly him down to Brisbane but they weren't sure he would make it.”

Josh spent the next month in hospital with septic blood spreading to his heart and hip bone and an MRI scan found an infection seeded at the inside of his hip.

A critical operation to remove the infection which had eaten through muscle and bone followed, but Josh's remarkable determination to get back on the field with the odds stacked against him meant he was playing rep football in early 2018.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs super fan has continued making unprecedented strides, featuring again as a Gympie region representative at a Wide Bay carnival this year and starring as half back for his new club, the Maryborough Brothers, at weekends.

Josh Hunt playing for the Maryborough Brothers.
TURN ON THE JETS: Josh Hunt playing for the Maryborough Brothers. Contributed

"When he first left hospital we didn't know if he would walk again,” Mrs Hunt said.

"His heart was quite badly affected, we weren't sure he would even be able to just be a normal child, let alone play sports.

"Within the first couple of months the rep team trials came up, we thought we'd give him a go. He tried out, he was a lot weaker, a lot slower but he got in against quite a strong collection of children.

"He would go outside and practise with the ball, he'd be running around, even inside he'd be running around the table trying to get his strength back up. He was very determined to just keep going.

"It's definitely not normal, even the pediatricians say the recovery isn't normal. They think it's the passion for football that has made him get back out there.”

"He always turns up to training in Rabbitohs colours, they call him 'Rabbit',” dad Anthony added.

"The club can't say enough about him, they reckon he's brought a massive change to the club.

"He's my idol. To be so sick and then go out and play, it's unbelievable.”

The young gun himself has his sights set on running out for the Rabbitohs one day.

"I love everything about football,” Josh said.

"Probably setting people up is my favourite part.

"I want to play for the Rabbitohs or the Cowboys.”

Josh is the latest Gympie Times Player of the Week.