Fundraiser for paralysed NZ rugby player

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 20:31 28/06/2012
Seti Tafua
Robert Gray/Seiser Photography
HORROR INJURY: Seti Tafua is unlikely to walk again after suffering a spinal injury.

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Paralysed rugby player Seti Tafua's closest family members have assembled at his bedside in the spinal unit of a Sydney hospital as a fundraising drive to assist the New Zealander gathers momentum on either side of the Tasman.

Tafua's father Oliva arrived from Samoa today as his son continues to remain positive despite being told it is unlikely he will walk again after a six-hour operation to fuse two dislocated vertebrae was unsuccessful.

The 24-year-old from Wellington suffered the serious spinal injury when representing Northern Suburbs in Sydney's division two competition on Saturday.

He fractured his C5 and C6 vertebrae when his head struck the ground at a ruck and has no movement below his waist.

Although Tafua was able to breathe unassisted the prognosis was otherwise grim.

"The specialists are predicting Seti will likely have some arm function, but is unlikely to regain the use of his legs. However, the permanent effects of the injury will not become fully known for some time," said club doctor Stephen Freeman.

Tafua, who was playing his third season for the "Shoremen", planned to return to Wellington after making his 50th appearance for the club this weekend.

That match against Eastern Suburbs has been postponed until July 7 while the clash with Sydney University a fortnight later will dovetail with a public appeal to raise funds for Tafua's continuing care.

Northern Suburbs organised flights from Wellington for Tafua's mother Akesa and brother Lalovi last weekend. His sister Helen also arrived from the capital today while Mr Tafua landed from Apia and taken straight to Royal North Shore Hospital.

The club has offered to accommodate the family during the early stages of Tafua's recovery and players have donated their match payments to purchase an iPad so their teammate can watch movies while bedridden.

Head coach, former Wallabies No.8 Scott Fava, said the club's leadership group were planning more initiatives to "positively affect Seti's life in the short and longer term."

A celebrity Twenty20 cricket match featuring Australian internationals in October is one possibility.

Tafua's home club Poneke is also staging a quiz night and auction at the clubrooms in Kilbirnie on July 18; several international players have already offered to donate jerseys and memorabilia.

Donations to The Seti Tafua Appeal Fund can also be made at branches of the ANZ Bank.

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