Bravery and heroism category: Andrew Clouston

A horrible tackle ended a professional rugby career - but proved to be the start of a job helping to save lives.

Andrew Clouston, 26, was aiming for a top career in Rugby Sevens. But all that changed with a single hit.

"In January 2010, I was training with the Canterbury Sevens team a week before I was meant to go to a national sevens tournament in Queenstown."


Mr Clouston had already represented NZ at the Rugby Tens in Hong Kong.

"I had performed a textbook tackle on a guy and he didn't like it, it stopped him from scoring the winning try. Shortly after, I was tackled from behind when I wasn't holding the ball. The guy got red-carded, stood down for the whole season."

That tackle broke Mr Clouston's back and any dreams he had of playing professional sport. He refused to have his spine fused as he knew that surgery would have debilitated him.

He has now recovered and has trained as an Emergency Medical Technician for St John Ambulance at the Amberley, North Canterbury station.

This year, Mr Clouston saved a family of three dangling over a Hurunui River cliff. He was the sole paramedic.

"They'd gone round a corner and gone straight over the bank," he said.

"They were caught in trees stopping them from going further - the driver's side was up against a pine tree."

Mr Clouston and a passing motorist threw a rope down the bank, where a couple and their grandson were in the vehicle. "If it was further down, the car would have rolled."

Mr Clouston helped the woman and her grandson up the bank, but had to return to the car, where the man was.

"The guy was complaining of pain in the pelvis area. He was dazed and had a gash on his head. He wasn't coherent. All I could do was provide pain relief. I sat in the passenger seat and put a collar on the guy."

He stayed with the man until the fire service and rescue helicopter arrived to help free the man and take him to hospital.

He said he doesn't look back to the tackle that ended his rugby career. "Nothing else I could do would be as rewarding as what I'm doing now."

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