Urgent review after fourth schoolboy injured
RUGBY Australia will review safety measures after a fourth serious neck injury in Queensland's Great Public Schools rugby, as the community prays for the recovery of the latest victim who suffered a broken neck over the weekend.
Heartbreak swamped exhilaration in the tragic split-second when Nudgee College rugby winger Alexander Clark turned from tryscorer into spinal injury victim.
The Year 9 schoolboy is in Lady Cilento Children's Hospital after undergoing emergency surgery for a serious neck injury on Saturday.
Alexander, 15, dived to score a try at speed as he was tackled by two Ipswich Grammar players in the 15Bs match on the Flats at Nudgee College.
In the wake of the fourth serious neck injury in GPS rugby over the past month, the nine principals within the GPS Association are certain to meet to address the concerns of parents over player safety.
Rugby Australia has announced a review of safety measures imposed on schoolboy football following the latest injury, The Australian reports.
The code's chief executive, Raelene Castle, said Rugby Australia had introduced elements to prevent injuries, including grading players by size rather than age, a concussion-card system and coaching techniques for scrummaging.
"We'll be looking to review those processes," she said.
The safety review was backed by Wallabies great Tim Horan, The Australian reports. But he warned against a ban on pushing in a scrum as it would mean schoolboys wouldn't learn the correct techniques or how to handle a scrum if they went on to play after schoolboy football.
Alexander, a boarder at the college, lay prone after tumbling out of an awkward roll and told the first medics on the scene he did not have feeling in his arms and legs. When the extent of the injury was known, the match was called off.
Alexander's father Paul was working in Papua New Guinea when news of the horror accident reached him and he made the trip to be at his son's bedside in hospital yesterday. Initial reports suggested a fracture at the C5-C6 vertebrae near the base of the neck.
One spectator, who did not wish to be named, described it as "a tragic accident in the motion of scoring with the impact and the young boy's almost-somersault and tumble".
Nudgee College principal Peter Fullagar on Sunday said it was "a significant neck injury" and last night the regular Sunday mass was offered for Alexander and his family at the college chapel.
"The surgical team at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital was satisfied with the outcome (of Saturday's surgery) and continue to monitor Alexander to assess if a second surgery is required within the coming days," Mr Fullagar said.
"The extent of his injury is unknown at this stage, and may not be known for days or weeks to come as Alexander recovers."
Emotional messages of support have been posted the Nudgee College Facebook page since the injury.
"I love rugby … but my heart absolutely breaks reading this," Lindy Devenish posted.
A serious injury case manager from Rugby Australia will be part of an independent review of the incident.
Stand-in Queensland Rugby Union chief executive David Hanham said the rugby community's prayers were with Alexander and his family.
Pressed on how much rugby was doing to tackle dangers that were frightening parents, he said: "It's very unfortunate this has happened and in my 20 years working for rugby in Queensland these are rare occurrences. "In a contact sport there are risks and I know the code continually works hard to address those issues with safe practices education for coaches and law variations around suitable size-for-age and height of tackles."
Terrace prop Conor Tweedy is fighting to regain feeling in his arms and legs after a scrum collapse in a Second XV game on July 21. James Kleidon will return to Toowoomba Grammar School this week after his rugby-related neck injury.
Fellow TGS student Ollie Bierhoff has taken assisted steps in the Princess Alexandra Hospital after his neck injury.