Drive to become a Wheel Black gives man his life back
Jacob Spooner was a mess after a workplace incident left him unable to walk, but his love of sport gave him his life back.
Spooner, 27, became a tetraplegic after an avalanche of boxes weighing 400 kilograms rained down on him at work in 2008.
Nearly 10 years and a lot of hard work later, he has been selected to play for the Wheel Blacks wheelchair rugby team.
It's clear the national call up means a lot to Spooner.
"I'm stoked. I'm the happiest I have been in ages."
Spooner, who lives in Feilding, has made a lot of progress since the incident in February 2008.
"I did not like hanging out with other people in wheelchairs – I was a mess," he said.
"I don't know what changed, really.
"I just started looking after myself. I started getting good advice.
"I had awesome people behind me supporting me.
"Being in a wheelchair has put my life on a better track than I was on when I was walking."
Spooner set himself the goal of becoming a Wheel Black and it has quite simply changed his life.
"I am a different person to what I was two years ago."
Aiming to become a New Zealand rep pushed him to improve his strength, but also his outlook.
"You've got to be in top nick. You've got to stay on top of your health.
"If you put your mind to something, anything is possible.
"I push myself up the street now. Before, I used to let other people push me."
But it certainly has not been an easy road. Spooner said coming to terms with his disability was a mental battle.
"It has taken me seven years to get over my accident.
"I had to find my own way.
Spooner was a driver's assistant, helping load and unload goods on and off trucks.
He went to open a side door and move a trolley inside, when a load of boxed desks collapsed on top of him, pinning him to the ground and breaking his neck.
"I thought I got over it quite quick, but maybe I did not realise. I put the strong face on.
"People on the outside could see it but I couldn't."
Spooner was told of his Wheel Blacks selection about three weeks ago and he immediately told his friends and family.
He plays as a blocker, which involves a lot of strategy and defence.
Wheelchair rugby is not for the faint-hearted.
"I have not had a game where my hands don't bleed."
Though he was delighted to make the team, Spooner was not content to rest on his laurels.
"My goal is too stay in the Wheel Blacks."
Spooner is the second new Wheel Black from Manawatu, alongside Nat Manville, 20.
Manville ended up in a wheelchair after a serious neck injury in 2014.
Spooner was glad Manville made the team.
Together, the pair will face Australia in five games over three days from Friday to Sunday in Christchurch.
Spooner thanked his personal sponsor Gallagher for its support.