The gym is a daily ritual for rugby players, but it's now even more important for Seti Tafua, who can no longer walk.
The Wellingtonian was left paralysed in June after suffering a spinal injury while playing his second-to-last game for Sydney club Northern Suburbs.
After hitting his head on the ground while entering a ruck, two cervical vertebrae fractured, shifting position and damaging his spinal cord. With no movement from the waist down, Tafua has spent the past eight weeks in hospital taking his first steps on a long road to recovery.
Speaking to The Dominion Post from Australia for the first time since his injury, he said it was a slow process but he was determined to get back on his feet again.
The gym had been a regular hangout recently and while he was not lifting the same weights as he used to, Tafua quipped that he was hitting the exercise machines more than when he was playing rugby.
Memories of the injury remain fresh for the 24-year-old, who is at a loss to explain what happened.
"I remember it all, I didn't lose any memory. I just dove into a ruck and it was just kind of freakish how it happened, I just got hit in the head. I felt pretty bad at the time, it was a feeling I've never had before and I knew as soon as I hit the ground."
All going well, Tafua will return to New Zealand this week and enter the spinal rehabilitation unit in Auckland. Huge fundraising efforts have started on both sides of the Tasman for Tafua, and they have stunned the quietly spoken man.
"It's awesome, it's just overwhelming. I'm very thankful, everyone in the rugby community, just everyone putting up their hand to give me a hand."
Former Poneke team-mate and family friend Evan Belford has been a driving force behind efforts in New Zealand that have seen about $50,000 raised. Latest efforts include several Trade Me auctions for signed sporting jerseys as well as a date with Crowd Goes Wild reporter and former Canadian rugby player Meghan Mutrie.
"Someone said why don't you get someone to date her because they'll all bid on her."
There were also plans to organise a fundraising concert with bands such as Six60, Mr Belford said.
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- The Dominion Post
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