Character: Richie Fa’aoso at Manly’s media day at Brookvale Oval still manages to give the thumbs up despite missing the grand final with a broken neck. Photo: Marco Del GrandeGrand final week: Read The Manly Mirror
Richie Fa’aoso didn’t realise he had broken his neck when he ran headfirst into the teeth of the South Sydney defence. Or while he was throwing his children around after being discharged from Concord Hospital.
It was only when he drove himself back to get further tests the next day that the Manly prop realised this wasn’t your garden-variety football injury.
”They’ve released me and then I’ve driven for the MRI in the morning then went in for the CT.
”And they’ve said, ‘Don’t move, you’ve got a broken neck’,” Fa’aoso said. ”When they said I had a broken neck I thought, ‘It can’t be too bad, I’ve been walking around and throwing the kids around’.
”I just thought, ‘You’re kidding me’. Obviously I was in pain but, to be honest, I thought I was carrying on a bit.”
But not even a fractured C7 vertebra was going to stop Fa’aoso from attending Manly’s media session on Monday. The journeyman prop was the beneficiary of a Jason Ryles injury, which allowed him to play in last year’s grand final-winning Melbourne side.
However, the chance to go back to back at two different clubs ended when he ran into what he described as the ”Samoan wall” of Jeff Lima and Roy Asotasi.
”Basically, I took a short ball and got absolutely lifted,” Fa’aoso quipped. ”I was more upset that I dropped the ball. That’s the way footy goes, mate.
”I obviously wanted to keep going, I didn’t realise how serious my neck was. I knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t think I broke it. What do you do? Shit happens.
”My luck had got to run out some time. It’s unfortunate it had to run out now, but life goes on.”
Wearing a neck brace and his football gear, Fa’aoso surprised many with his presence at Brookvale Oval. He has a year remaining on his contract and is hoping to again run on to the ground in a playing capacity.
”I’ll be back,” he said.
”I’m missing out on a World Cup but I’ll get to spend time with my family over the off-season.
”I’m sweet. Hopefully everything goes all right, it all heals properly and I’ll be back. I’ve got to pretty much take it easy, which is hard in such a big week. There will be some full-on stuff going on but I’ll try to stay calm.”
Fa’aoso has carved out a reputation as one of the hardest men in the game during stints at the Eels, Roosters, Panthers, Raiders, Knights and Sea Eagles. He is also one of its greatest characters, always up for a chat or a joke, even after what appeared a catastrophic injury.
”I’m jumping on the bandwagon,” he quipped upon his arrival for the team photo. ”I’m a bit of a journeyman, I’ve been to a few clubs before I ended up here.
”We’ve got a great bunch of boys and a great team and coach.
”Thanks to everyone for their support, but I’m good as gold.”
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