Players who played through the pain

20 comments
Mahe Drysdale spent the build up to his final at the Beijing Olympics on an intravenous drip and still managed a bronze medal. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Mahe Drysdale spent the build up to his final at the Beijing Olympics on an intravenous drip and still managed a bronze medal. Photo / Kenny Rodger

Following the revelation Warriors hooker Nathan Friend played 75 minutes and made 53 tackles after breaking his jaw against Brisbane on Saturday night, APNZ looks at five other athletes who put concerns about their well-being behind them and played through the pain.

Colin Meads, All Black
Meads cemented his reputation as one of the hardest men to pull on the black jersey after breaking an arm against Eastern Transvaal on the All Blacks' 1970 tour of South Africa, and playing on. The story goes that when the doctor cut away his jersey to reveal the extent of the injury, Meads muttered: "At least we won the bloody game." Meads missed the first two tests against the Springboks, but returned for the third with his arm still broken and held together by a splint.

Pinetree was also kicked in the head by a Frenchman in a match in 1968, receiving a gash that needed 18 stitches - without anaesthetic. Meads incorrectly thought a player named Benoit Dauga had caused the damage (he broke Dauga's nose for good measure), and told the doctor stitching him: "Hurry up, I want to get back out there and kill this bugger."

Bert Sutcliffe, New Zealand cricket batsman
Day three of the second test of New Zealand's 1953 tour to South Africa began with the visitors chasing 271 and fiery fast bowler Neil Adcock terrorising the New Zealand batsmen. Sutcliffe was taken off on a stretcher and sent to hospital after being hit in the head by a bouncer, while Lawrie Miller was also forced to retire hurt and John Reid was struck five times. When the tourists were reduced to 81-6, Sutcliffe returned to the crease with his head swathed in bandages and proceeded to hit a number of sixes, eventually reaching 80no.

When the ninth wicket fell, Sutcliffe was joined at the crease by an unlikely partner - fast bowler Bob Blair, mourning the loss of his fiance in the Tangiwai rail disaster just two days earlier. It was ultimately a losing effort but, as the local press said: "All the glory was for the vanquished."

Mahe Drysdale, Olympic rower
Drysdale had been sick all week leading up to the single sculls final at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He spent the build up to the race on an intravenous drip, as he battled a severe gastrointestinal infection which drained him of almost 5kg in weight and was accompanied by regular vomiting and diarrhoea. He barely qualified for the final of the event he had dominated for the three previous years, finishing third in the semifinal, and his Olympic dream looked in tatters.

But Drysdale mustered what little strength remained in his body to claim the bronze medal, before collapsing and requiring the assistance of paramedics. His recollection of the race was hazy and he reportedly had no memory of the final 200m, but Drysdale later said the punishment reminded him of why he loved sport and how, at times, brutal it can be.

Shane Smeltz, All White
This season's A-League final was just 15 minutes old when the Perth striker copped the full force of Brisbane captain Matt Smith's elbow to his face. Blood began to spray before Smeltz even hit the ground and the match was stopped for several minutes as medical staff attempted to stem the flow. Despite his breathing being inhibited, the All Whites striker battled on with his face almost comically bandaged until the wound could be temporarily closed by staples at halftime.

Smeltz was finally withdrawn in the 80th minute and taken to hospital, where he required plastic surgery and 53 stitches to close up the gash that ran from his top lip to his nostrils. Doctors later described the wound as similar to those sustained in car accidents. Adding insult to injury, Smeltz's Perth teammates conceded two late goals as Brisbane won 2-1 to claim their second straight A-League title.

Buck Shelford, All Black
It was 1986, and Shelford was making his second appearance for the All Blacks in their second test against France. A quarter of the way into a match known as 'The Battle of Nantes', Shelford found himself at the bottom of a ruck. There, an French errant boot found its way into the most uncomfortable of places, tearing Shelford's scrotum and leaving one testicle hanging free.

The No 8 refused to let such a trivial matter force him from the field, reportedly instructing the physio to stitch him up and send him back onto the pitch. A subsequent blow to the head eventually required him to be replaced and Sheffield, somewhat mercifully, has no memory of the match which the All Blacks went on to lose 16-3. Shelford, who also lost four teeth while on the field, later described the test as the toughest he played.

Any other moments? Share your thoughts below.

- APNZ

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 22 Dec 2014 07:01:59 Processing Time: 452ms