Southland star rugby player wakes from coma
DAVID LONG AND LIAM NAPIER
Southland rugby player Hoani MacDonald has woken from an induced coma, New Zealand Rugby Union general manager Neil Sorensen says.
The 34-year-old, who has played for New Zealand Maori, the Junior All Blacks and the Highlanders, collapsed early in the first-half of his team's NPC second tier Championship semifinal against Counties Manukau in Pukekohe yesterday.
MacDonald was put in an induced coma at Middlemore Hospital and his fiancee Michelle, a nurse at Southland Hospital, flew in from Invercargill with their two young children last night to be at his bedside.
''[MacDonald] has started to come out of an induced coma and is showing early positive signs including acknowledging questions and recognising people around him," Sorensen said tonight.
While it was positive news, MacDonald remained in intensive care, Sorensen said.
''Hoani's family remain at his bedside and have expressed thanks for the massive outpouring of love and support from the New Zealand public.''
Observers at the game saw MacDonald go down, clutching his chest. "We were very worried up in the box because we saw him try to stand, and then tumble," Counties Manukau coach Tana Umaga told the Sunday Star-Times. "He started running and then fell over."
Team-mates put MacDonald in the recovery position as play carried on.
Once he was taken from the field, ambulance officers performed CPR for almost 10 minutes behind a tarpaulin erected around MacDonald, before using a defibrillator and oxygen to revive him. "It was pretty bad," Umaga said.
The match was never stopped, and when Southland scored a try, a conversion was taken within 30 metres of where MacDonald was being treated.
MacDonald's collapse comes at the end of a season where a lot of games have been played in a short time. Coaches have been critical of the format, with players often having just a few days between matches.
"It shouldn't be life or death what we do," Umaga said. "It's a game we play for fun, and players' health should be paramount.
"That's something out of this competition that has to be looked at. It's about the health of the players. Hopefully they investigate it fully and it doesn't happen again, because I'd hate for this to escalate and be something more. Luckily we've got the health professionals to do a great job and look after him."
Television commentators did not mention the seriousness of MacDonald's condition.
Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way said: "We absolutely understand there is a lot of emotion involved, but we're there to commentate on the game and ... we don't want to speculate on what might be happening where there's no official information."
At halftime, Southland coach Dave Henderson thought MacDonald had suffered some kind of seizure, but, with no thought given to extending the interval to check on the player's status, he elected to keep his players in the dark until the end of the game.
"I was pretty cut up at halftime and it was hard to keep myself together, because something had gone seriously wrong," Henderson said. "I had to keep focused, but it was tough because he's an important member of our team."
Henderson informed the team after the match and said his players were in shock. "They are pretty down. We got them in the changing shed and told them what had happened, but we're still not sure what the problem is, but it is serious."
Southland manager Glenn Morrison went to the hospital until MacDonald's family arrived. New Zealand Rugby Union professional rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said the sporting body was working with Rugby Southland and chief executive Brian Hopley to support MacDonald's family and team-mates.
- © Fairfax NZ News