All Blacks lift for injured player
Injured Palmerston North rugby player Nat Manville has received well wishes from All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Conrad Smith.
The year 13 Awatapu College student remains in the intensive care unit at Christchurch Hospital after having surgery on his neck.
His family have noticed improvements in the mobility of Manville's upper body and were able to take him outside for the first time in three weeks.
The 18-year-old fractured his fifth cervical vertebra during a ruck while playing for the school's first XV against Tararua College in Pahiatua last month.
Barrett and Smith sent a 17-second video clip via Manville's Road to Recovery Facebook page.
"Hi Nat, heard about the injury, hope you're doing OK mate, best wishes from us here at the Hurricanes," Smith said.
"We're going to sign a jersey and send it down your way. All the best for your recovery mate," Barrett said.
As a Hurricanes fan, Manville was "stoked" to see the video, his uncle, Aaron Manville, said.
"He's really been encouraged by the messages sent to him. The signed jersey arrived for him the other night and it was a huge surprise, he was really blown away by that."
Manville had bone grafted from his hip to help fix the fracture and plates inserted at the fourth and sixth cervical vertebrae to provide support.
An intubation tube was removed from his throat last week and a tracheotomy inserted, allowing him to speak in short bursts.
He has been able to roll his shoulders, move his triceps and biceps, and this week he sat upright for a few hours, and also visited a nearby duck pond with his family.
"They're quite big things for him, and he enjoyed that different scenery," Aaron Manville said.
"He is coming along slowly, it's just really small steps at the moment and while we're optimistic, we're also realistic about what could happen."
His parents, Darrell and Brenda, were in Christchurch with their son waiting for a move to Burwood Hospital's spinal unit.
The Manvilles were working closely with the New Zealand Rugby Foundation, which supports seriously injured players, and Tararua and Awatapu schools have run fundraisers for the family.
Awatapu College principal Gary Yeatman said the students' efforts showed how much they cared for Manville.