Manly forward Joel Thompson has spoken about his decision to quit drinking for a year following a serious accident in October, days before the heartbreaking loss of his grandfather.
Thompson spoke to the Sea Eagles website about the incident following the Koori Knockout in Gosford, which resulted in him being airlifted to Royal North Shore Hospital where he spent a couple of weeks recovering from a neck injury.
He posted a photo to Instagram of himself in a neck brace and has since spoken about the accident and his decision to quit alcohol for the next 12 months.
"I was there at the Koori Knockout supporting family and friends and also helping out with NSW Transport. I was getting a taxi to go home and said goodbye to my good friends, went outside and no-one really knows what happened from there but obviously I had the accident," Thompson told seaeagles.com.au.
"I tripped or fell into something, no-one really knows what it was, whether it was into the fence or if it was actually just hitting stuff on the ground.
"The taxi driver, lucky for me, rang my mate who called the cab and said, 'We're out here waiting, where is he?' And they came out looking for me, concerned, and obviously have saved my life because they found me bleeding and with the injury.
"Straight away they turned me on my side and did everything they could to look after me and called the ambulance and from there they flew me straight to Sydney and intensive care.
Joel Thompson reflects on accident
"I came out of intensive care and came to and I actually thought I was in heaven, I wasn't sure with the bright lights and I didn't know what had happened, I didn't know anything.
"It was something that I've never obviously experienced anything like it. My first concerns obviously were for my family. It has changed me forever."
Thompson decided to quit alcohol for a year and spoke about the heartbreak of losing his Pop so soon after coming out of hospital.
"I held a lot of guilt there, doing that to my family and friends, and to my nan – you know, my nan didn't know what had had happened, how upset she was. Also my Pop. I lost my Pop not long after and for him to have those thoughts of me possibly not coming out of it, that's something I'll have to live with forever now. And losing my Pop and him going through all that…
"It's just something I should have given up before that, you know. It's the final straw, and it's something I want to do for myself but also for the people I love around me.
"I was released out of hospital after a couple of weeks and was given the news that he didn't have long to live. I had to rush straight to Wagga and I got to spend five minutes [with him] before he passed away.
"It was heartbreaking. He loved his footy and he was one of my biggest supporters.
"Now I want to live for him and live in a good way and live a good life and be the best person, because I know he'd be up there proud of me, and it's something I'll hold with me forever."