Leg break puts Bouboulas' aspirations on hold
MATT Bouboulas' debut rugby league season ended in agony.
Heading into round 16, the rugby union convert had cemented a spot in the centres for Ballina under-18s, and had impressed first grade coach Graham Lees and local commentators with several stand-out performances in the top grade.
Then it all went horribly wrong as he tackled a Grafton Rhinos player.
“I went to put a shot on. I hit him and all I remember is hearing a crack,” he said last week after having his cast removed.
“I didn't know it was me until I looked down and the pain kicked in.
“[My leg] was just flopping everywhere... The bone was sticking out like a lamb shank... It was the worst thing I've ever felt in my life. I can't describe it, it was just really bad ... I was in shock.”
Fans and club officials watching the match described it as the worst broken leg they'd ever seen on the Ballina ground.
He suffered a compound fracture of the ankle and a broken tibia and was taken to Lismore Base Hospital.
“Even though they gave me morphine, they were pumping me with that but the pain wouldn't go away,” he said.
“The first thing I thought about was my job, I'd just started a [painting] apprenticeship. Then I was worried if I would ever walk or play footy again.
“The circulation had stopped and my foot started going blue and grey and I was told I was in danger of losing it.
“Luckily there was a surgeon there and he was just finishing a surgery... otherwise I would've had to be flown to Brisbane.
“I was lucky, another hour or so I would've been a bit different.”
Bouboulas will remain on crutches until he has surgical screws removed in three weeks, but he is already thinking next season.
“I'll have to wait until next year before I can run again,” he said.
“Some of the doctors say I should be able to play again, but some of them are saying wait and see.
“I'm really keen to get back into it. I really enjoyed it and the people in the club were really nice.”
His boss, Marist Brothers hooker Scott Gibson, is also prepared to wait.
“He's been great. He just wants me to focus on my leg and he said my job is going to be there when I get back,” Bouboulas said.
“He said 'it's just football, it could happen to him as well'.”