‘Freakish’ talent will never play rugby again
A different type of tackle, a different angle of collision and Harry McLellan knows he would have lost more than rugby from his life.
The Southern Districts star, described by his coach as boasting "freakish" physical abilities, will never play the game he loves again and that hurts.
But McLellan said it is a small price to pay for being able to live a normal life one day.
"I was lucky, it could have been a lot worse. I could have been a quadriplegic," said the long-time Souths player and stone mason who lived for his weekday training and weekend rugby with Souths.
The rugby community is rallying around McLellan as he battles back from surgery after having two vertebrae at the top of the spine, fused back together.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up with donations already topping $25,000 which will assist him with his medical bills and time off work.
"I got crunched in a tackle and my C1 and C2 vertebra came dangerously loose and I had to get surgery to fuse it together," McLellan said.
"There were a rough couple of days after the surgery but I'm starting to get up and walk around a bit now.
"Because they are fused together when it eventually heals I will be able to do normal thing. But not contact sport, not rugby.
"They think I had injured it before. They said it was ridiculously loose. I am so lucky. I was maybe one hit away from something far more serious.
"In the scheme of things loosing rugby isn't the biggest thing. But I loved it."
McLellan, 22, a members of Souths since he was just 14, said he has been overwhelmed by rugby's support for him since the accident and the Go Fund Me campaign set up by Souths coach Todd Louden.
"I didn't expect anything. Todd just came up with the idea and I can't believe how much there is but I am so thankful,'' he said.
"The surgery wasn't cheap and I'll be off work for a while.
"I have been blown away. There have been so many messages, people asking me if I need anything. Some good has come out of this. I never realised how much people cared.''
This weekend Southern Districts hosts the Hunter Wildfires in round 10 of the Shute Shield.
Victory is crucial for the clubs bid to make the finals.
Originally published as 'Freakish' talent will never play rugby again