A young Sydney rugby champion is now fighting to walk again after losing the use of his legs and hands in a tackle.
Alex Noble, a year 10 student from Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview, had his life changed forever when he injured his spinal cord in a training session in October.
He was left with no feeling below his upper chest or below his elbows.
Yet in the face of adversity, the 16-year-old is putting up a brave fight – opting for a manual wheelchair instead of electric to stay strong for a trial offering hope to quadriplegics.
His family has since started a campaign called “I fight, You fight” after his dreams were snatched away from him following what seemed like an innocuous rugby tackle six weeks ago.
“It was shattering. Absolutely,” his mother Kylie Noble said of the incident which occurred while he trained with the under-16 NSW Rugby Sevens youth selection squad.
“And then you just stop and go, ‘What?!’. Like … ‘What’s happening?’ You hope it’s not real. But you know he’s amazing. He is amazing.”
Still prominent in his memory, Alex recalled the exact moment that left him paralysed.
“I remember getting tackled, landing on my head, doing a front flip onto my head,” he said.
“I was lying and then I saw my arms and legs just lying on the floor and I was just shocked … didn’t really think about anything, [I was] just shocked.”
His father, Glen Noble, described it as the “toughest day of my life”.
Following painstaking surgery that lasted six hours, Alex’s neck is now held together by wires, screws and hope.
“Positive attitude … gets me through the gym and all that. It’s good,” Alex said.
With a long road to recovery, Alex sees his close peers as a driving force going forward.
“Nothing different, to be honest. He’s still my best friend. That’s all that matters really,” Alex’s best friend Jayden said.
Ms Noble revealed his friends are by his side for hours on end, helping with simple day-to-day tasks such as combing his hair.
Aussie stars’ words of encouragement
Alex’s story has resonated across the world of rugby and the wider community, with several Aussie stars offering him the support he needs.
“Sending all our positive vibes your way,” swimmer Liesel Jones said in a video message.
“Keep fighting and I hope you’re feeling better soon,” golfer Cameron Smith added.
Hugh Jackman delivered his own poignant tribute.
“You are part of a massive community that loves you, that supports you. Lean on them – this is the time,” he said.
Faced with crushing bills and an emotional Everest, the Nobles have started a campaign “I fight, You fight”.
The phrase was Alex’s message to his older brother Zac, who struggled through the remainder of his HSC.
Alex’s physical and financial battle
Alex’s fight comes in the shape of his lengthy road to getting on his feet again to walk.
Sydney’s University of Technology will trial a discovery using electronic implants that stimulate the spinal cord. It has already given partial movement to three quadriplegics.
“Trying to work as hard as I can, see where it takes, hopefully walking and all that,” he said with his ever-positive attitude.
Yet he can’t do it alone and needs financial aid to support his recovery over the coming years.
His family have since set up a GoFundMe to help with Alex’s “emotional and financial mountains”.
“We have to give him every chance so we need to fight for him, his mates are fighting for him,” Ms Noble urged.