Australia’s rugby sevens captain James Stannard says he is “very lucky” to be alive after an alleged one-punch assault left him with a fractured skull that has ruled him out of competing in the Commonwealth Games.
A 22-year-old British man has been charged over the incident, which occurred outside a kebab shop in Coogee about 3am on Friday.
Stannard had been out celebrating with outgoing coach Andy Friend and teammates Lewis Holland and Ben O’Donnell at the Coogee Crowne Plaza when he was allegedly assaulted by the man.
As Stannard lay unconscious on Coogee Bay Road, Friend thought the blow had been fatal.
Holland and O’Donnell gave chase and apprehended the man nearby.
Speaking for the first time since the alleged assault, Stannard said he remembered being out at the pub earlier in the evening, but “after that, I don’t remember anything”.
The Rio Olympian was set to compete at his third Commonwealth Games before the alleged assault.
“I’m not angry, I’m just a bit heartbroken,” he said.
Stannard said his bond with Holland and O’Donnell was “amazing” and he had messaged them to thank them for supporting him that night and chasing the alleged attacker.
“I don’t know if I’d be here without those blokes … words can’t describe how much I appreciate them being there.”
Stannard struggled to turn his head as he answered questions from the media and admitted he felt “pretty sluggish” walking the short distance from the car.
“That’s the longest walk I’ve had since I’ve been out of hospital,” he said
Doctors had told him that, along with the fractured skull, he also had some bleeding on the brain.
“I don’t really know the full extent but it sounds bad [and] I appreciate that I’m very lucky to be here,” he said.
“I’ll get a full recovery but it’s just total rest for the moment.”
Support from rugby community ‘overwhelming’
Stannard, who is due to retire at the end of this season, was released from St Vincent’s hospital on Sunday, where he had been since the early hours of Friday morning.
He said it felt good to be at home in his own bed, with his family by his side.
He was also “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of support from friends and family, his teammates and coaches from all over the world.
Stannard said he was still unsure whether he would travel to the Gold Coast to play a supporting role for his team at the Commonwealth Games.
“I’ll try to get out there and support them but my priority is just to get a lot of rest between now and then.
“I will be definitely following them – whether it’s here watching on TV or over there watching them.”
Doctors say he should be well enough to train in six weeks’ time, but the next two weeks are critical in his recovery.
He said he had spoken to teammates Lewis Holland and Jessie Parahi, who had also suffered recent injuries, about the prospect of competing at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in three months’ time.
“We discussed that I would try everything I can to get right for the World Cup and have one last dance with those blokes.
“Football is just a small part of your life. I’ve got a family and something to go to after football that’s more important after footy, so I’m just glad I’m here to enjoy those moments with them.”