My Good Vibes Snapshot: Kotoni Ale
Kotoni Ale was captaining his rugby team the Manly Marlins in a showdown against local rivals the Warringah Rats, when a tackle-gone-wrong left him with an agonising compound fracture of his ankle (ouch!!!). Front-on images of the injury were so disturbing, even the network televising the game made the decision not to replay them. While the road to recovery has been a tough time for Kotoni, the support he has received from so many people, including the students from the high school where he teaches, has really made all the difference…
I was as playing for Manly against Warringah when it happened. It was just one of those tackles that went wrong. You can’t really train for that kind of thing… it was just one of those freak accidents. I broke my ankle pretty badly. I was lying on the field for over 50 minutes before they could get the right pain relief and specialist, then I was taken off in the ambulance. The game was stopped all that time and I’ve been told some people were pretty upset by what they saw. To be honest, how it happened and most of what occurred immediately afterwards, I don’t really remember… it was all a bit of a blur to me. Apparently it wasn’t the prettiest sight, so it was probably good I didn’t actually look at it. The first 30 seconds was like the worst pain I’ve probably ever experienced. After that, I just went numb… I think I just went in and out of shock. For me, it’s put into perspective what it means to have both your legs functioning.
It’s been really hard being someone who loves to be so active, having to stay at home. I can’t do much, I can’t really move. It makes you feel quite helpless, but with the positive support around you, you can overcome most things. All the support has made things a lot easier to deal with. My girlfriend, Sophie has been there with me through it all. After the accident on social media, all the well wishes, all the ‘hope you get betters’ were just overwhelming. Everyone on the field at the time and amongst my team and everyone in the local community, my work community, the boys from school, my family and friends and my girlfriend have all supported me. It helps motivate me with my recovery. People were visiting me in hospital and just showing that they care. They were telling me how much seeing what happened to me on the field that day affected them.
I have a home class I look after at school. The majority of them are Year 7s so they’re new to the school. I also coach most of them for footy as well. I had just coached them the morning of the accident and a lot of them were saying “we’re going to come down and watch you play this afternoon”. How it panned out…that wasn’t the way I wanted it to go for them. They gave me a huge card. They said they felt it when I was lying there on the field and seeing me in pain… they just wanted to show their support I guess. It gave me a boost…it just shows that they care for me as a person and they appreciate the things I do. For me it’s that sense of community.
I try to go out of my way to make sure all the boys are comfortable at school and that they feel part of it all. I really try to role model the qualities I think a teacher should role model… being polite , being respectful, sometimes putting your needs aside and taking care of others… just looking out for others. I try to interact with the boys and see how they’re going. The most important thing for teaching is trying to build up good relationships with your students, so that they’ll respect you. If you show them you care, they’ll start to open up to you and then they’ll start taking in your lessons. You need to make sure the students can trust you and feel comfortable in your classroom. If you build that foundation, then the teaching comes easily. In one way you could say their emotional reaction to seeing the accident shows that the relationship has started to develop between them as students and me as their teacher
I’m lucky to have them all… the respect goes both ways I guess. You don’t realise how much you miss your kids until you have to take this much time off from work….”
Thanks so much for sharing your story Kotoni. It seems the value you place on treating others politely, kindly and with respect has encouraged them to reach out to support you when you’ve needed it. Good luck with your recovery. Here’s hoping you’ll be back playing your much loved footy before too long- teenconfidential PS: Go the Marlins!
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