WARNING: Graphic content
A Whangarei father has spoken of his heartbreak at having to deal with the aftermath of an attack on his teenage son where his skull was fractured.
Jay Rihia-Neumann, 16, was walking home with friends after school on Monday when six adults and two teenagers got out of a car on Corks Rd in Tikipunga and attacked them.
Joshua Neumann said his son was struck on the side of the head with an axe handle during the attack.
Neumann said his son was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he believed the attack was linked to a dispute involving one of Jay's friends.
The 16-year-old Kamo High School student was rushed to Whangarei Hospital before he was transported to the Auckland City Hospital where he had a four-hour operation on Tuesday afternoon.
His parents are by his bedside in the High Dependency Unit and Neumann said Jay would stay in hospital for another two to three days.
"His mates were traumatised at seeing the split in his head, which was at least 10mm deep. They were crying and upset. Doctors said he could not be flown down to Auckland because of the severity of the injury," Neumann said.
Although Jay was on the road to recovery, his father said it would take at least 12 months for him to get back to playing rugby and league as well as focus on his studies.
"He's a really good young fella, a good sportsman. He plays in the First XV for Whangaruru and in the First XIII for the Northern Swords league side but he won't be playing for at least 12 months because his head cannot be targeted," he said.
The attack on Jay, he said, has forced the Tikipunga family to depend on whanau to look after their five other children, aged between 8 months and 21.
A Facebook post from Jay's uncle has resulted in more than 250 messages of support. Neumann said the support from family and friends, personally and through social media, has been great.
Jay was talking and in good spirits despite being tired and sore after the operation, he said.
Detective Senior Sergeant Dene Begbie said police received a report that a large number of youths were fighting in Corks Rd about 7pm on Monday.
He said a 16-year-old boy received head injuries as a result and was taken to hospital.
Police were in the early stages of their investigation and Begbie said anyone with information about the fight could contact Whangarei police on (09) 4304500 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.