FORMER West Lions and Tamworth High School centre and backrower Mitch Dening underwent surgery at Nepean Private Hospital overnight after fracturing his neck playing for Penrith Panthers feeder club Windsor on the weekend.
Former coach and family friend Tony La Chiusa said despite some complications, which led to a lengthy surgery, it all went according to plan.
“His disc was against his spinal cord so he didn’t get out of surgery until 1.30am after going in at 4pm,” La Chiusa said.
The 19-year-old suffered two fractured bones and two ruptured discs in his back making a routine tackle playing for the Wolves in round one of the Ron Massey Cup.
Unaware of the serious damage he had suffered, he tried to get back on the field.
But thankfully the doctors – under the NRL’s new strict concussion guidelines – overruled him.
The injury has all-but ended Dening’s dreams of playing in the NRL, but the prognosis is that all things going well he will make a full recovery. Dening was playing for West Lions top grade when he was still a junior, before signing with the Titans.
“He is a big, strong and fast bloke that made a perfect centre,” La Chiusa said.
“He was one of those kids that you always knew was going to go far, but had a horror run of injuries.”
Dening badly broke his leg playing for Wests just after signing the Titans contract, only to badly injure his hand at the Gold Coast club.
That injury saw him sign up for Penrith and play for Windsor this year.
Dening’s injury came on the same weekend that Newcastle Knights player Alex McKinnon fractured two vertebrae playing against Melbourne on Monday.
McKinnon is a born and bred Aberdeen boy and now the club he played all his junior football with has gone into support mode.
The Group 21 season kicks off on Saturday with Aberdeen hosting premiers Greta Branxton.
The club has had all of first grade sign a new season jersey and will be auctioning it off over the coming weeks.
Coach Daniel Hoogerwerf said there was plenty of fundraising and support going on with everyone on board.
“We have dedicated the whole weekend to Alex and have a lot to play for,” Hoogerwerf said.
Aberdeen upset favourites Scone in the pre-season gala day last weekend before going down to Greta in the final game.
“We showed a lot of fight last week and have a full side back for this game.”
“The whole thing has banded us together as a club and we have a lot of belief.”
Aberdeen Junior Rugby League is also doing their own fundraising for McKinnon.