Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Canadian rugby team to auction jerseys for paralyzed player without insurance

November 20, 2006

Via CBC:

Canadian rugby team to auction jerseys for paralyzed player without insurance

19:21:57 EST Nov 9, 2006
Canadian Press: SHI DAVIDI

(CP) - Mark Lawson knows rugby is a very brutal game.

He understands that every time he takes the pitch he risks injury, both minor and major. That's why Sean Corner's story hit so close to home for him and the rest of the Canadian national team. Corner, 21, was playing scrum half for the Hamilton Hornets RFC on Sept. 9 when a clean tackle in a post-season friendly match left him paralyzed from the waist down.

He'd been hit the same way hundreds of other times. Only this time he didn't get up.

Making things even more tragic, the injury occurred one day after Rugby Canada's catastrophic insurance for affiliated players was pulled by the provider, leaving Corner and thousands of others with no coverage.

While the provincial health plan covers his medical expenses, the catastrophic insurance offered a one-time payout of up to $500,000 that would have helped pay for renovations to make his home wheelchair friendly and outfitting a car he could drive.

"It resonates with a lot of people, especially given that this type of tragedy could have happened to any of us," Lawson said this week from Victoria. "What the kid needs now is cash. Our goal is to raise some money for the kid."

So like many other rugby clubs around the country, the national team hatched a fundraising plan before leaving for their European tour Thursday.

The club plans to trade jerseys with the Wales players following their match Nov. 17 in Cardiff and auction the Welsh shirts on EBay. Then, following their Nov. 25 match with Italy, the Canadians plan to forgo the traditional jersey exchange and sell off their shirts back home.

All the money will be given to the Sean Corner Benefit Fund set up by the Hamilton Hornets.

"Welsh jerseys in Wales would probably fetch more money than Canadian jerseys in Canada," said Lawson, who hopes fetch about $500 for each Canadian shirt from either targeted buyers or anyone else interested.

"I don't think that's too much to ask," he said. "I realize it's not like a Wayne Gretzky national team hockey jersey, we have no illusions of the popularity of our sport in Canada, but given the cause we hope people will step up."

Lawson developed the plan with teammate David Spicer and assistant coach John Tait, who spoke to the Welsh team about the jersey exchange. The Canadians had no objections to parting with the shirts, which carry tremendous sentimental importance to players.

"We ran it by the guys, 'Are you cool giving up your jerseys?"' said Lawson. "It was the fastest response to any e-mail I've had from the guys in a long while - we're not known for being quick to respond to e-mails - but I got a resounding yes."

Lawson also made sure to get an OK from Corner, whom he called to ask for approval and offer encouragement.

"He's got an amazing attitude, I was really impressed when I talked to him," said Lawson. "He's realistic about his situation but also determined and optimistic about it."

Lawson said Corner's injury and the insurance issue should serve as an eyeopener to rugby players around the country.

The policy for players in affiliated leagues was pulled because the insurance company paid out $1 million in settlements while collecting just $70,000 in premiums. Once the coverage expired, Rugby Canada informed the provincial federations, who informed affiliated clubs, who told players. Most just kept playing.

A new policy is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks. Coverage for the national teams was not interrupted.

"Personally I never really considered it much, just given the brutality of the sport it's amazing I hadn't considered it more," said Lawson. "There's not an overabundance of spinal injuries by any means but it is a contact sport."

That's why Lawson hopes the terrible timing of Corner's accident inspires some generosity in others.

"Rugby is a tight-knit community across the country, the fact so many clubs have already done fundraisers for Sean is testament to that," said Lawson.

"It's just a matter of looking out for your fellow rugby player."


The Hamilton Rugby Club is holding a variety of fundraising events for Corner, with details available at:

People interested in bidding on the Canadian jerseys can contact Lawson at:

  • Link to Welsh jersey eBay auctions here.

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