Albury Tigers player James McQuillan, aged in his 20s, collided with a Yarrawonga player in an Ovens and Murray league Australian rules match in Albury in southern NSW on Saturday.
In a second incident in another Australian rules match in Heathcote in central Victoria on Saturday, Heathcote player coach Grant Ford was stretchered off the field with a neck injury, but was released from hospital on Sunday after being cleared of spinal damage.
Both matches were called off.
McQuillan’s parents Jack and Jo McQuillan said their focus was solely on the health of their son.
“We know that he is in the best hands possible with the expert medical team at the Austin Hospital,” they said in a statement.
“We want to sincerely thank everyone so far who has played a part in caring for James in Albury and Melbourne, and also the many well-wishers supporting us.
“We would greatly appreciate some privacy and understanding at this incredibly difficult time.”
McQuillan was initially taken to hospital in Albury in an induced coma and flown to Melbourne on Saturday night.
Albury Tigers Club President Gavan Schultz said the club would not refer the incident to the league.
He said there was no malice in the collision, adding similar collisions happened every week during the football season without resulting in injury.
“We are hopeful and praying for good news but also understand the seriousness of James’ injuries,” Schultz said.
AFL North East Border general manager John O’Donohue said support would be offered to all parties involved, including players from both the Albury and Yarrawonga football clubs, the trainers who treated James, and the McQuillan family.
Ford’s injury happened in general play during a Heathcote District league match between Elmore and Heathcote.
League secretary Trevor Arnel said everyone was thankful Ford was okay.
It has been two weeks since Newcastle Knights rugby league player Alex McKinnon suffered a broken neck in an NRL game against the Melbourne Storm.