Sunday Territorian

Harrowing tale of survival

Stroke of luck saved Anderson

- Phil Rothfield

Daniel Anderson has no recollecti­on of the shocking bodysurfin­g accident that has left him a quadripleg­ic and almost killed him.

The former Parramatta Eels and New Zealand Warriors NRL coach was on a Central Coast family holiday in late December when he was dumped on a wave and suffered a catastroph­ic spinal injury.

He went into a cardiac arrest and had to be dragged semiconsci­ous from the water.

It was only that two off-duty paramedics happened to be on the beach that his life was saved before he was airlifted to the spinal unit at Royal North Shore hospital.

Nearly five months later, Anderson is telling his remarkable story for the first time.


The 56-year-old has no memory of the accident at Soldiers Beach, near Norah Head.

“I was out bodysurfin­g with my brothers and their kids,” he says, “They’ve since filled me in on what happened. I caught a wave but got dumped on my head.

“I was dragged from the water unresponsi­ve and then went into cardiac arrest.

“Thankfully there were a couple of off-duty paramedics on the beach and lifeguards. They brought me back.

“Then ambulance and police arrived. I was then taken to Warnervale where there is a small airport and airlifted to Royal North Shore.

“I’m very lucky the paramedics were there. I was obviously in a bad way. If they weren’t there, who knows how it would have finished up.”


X-rays would reveal severe compressio­n of the spinal cord.

“I was classified as an incomplete quadripleg­ic,” Anderson said. “Incomplete means that you can get little bits back, but some things you never can.

“No one can tell you categorica­lly what, if any movement you get back. But after four days I was wiggling my big toe.

“Right now I need assistance with everything, brushing my teeth, feeding, bathing, having a coffee.

“I’ve got slight movement in my right hand. Just enough to softly shake hands.

“Three weeks ago I couldn’t do that. It’s progress.”


We often talk of mental toughness and strength in rugby league. Anderson has got it in bucketload­s.

“It was quite harrowing for my family,” Anderson said.

“I had a tough time those first four weeks. I didn’t sleep. You’re just staring at a clock all night.”

Wife Natalie and his four children, Alana, 26, Heather, 24, Cooper, 20, and Spencer, 18, are keeping him strong.

“Natalie has been my rock,” he says.

Anderson took the Eels and the Warriors to NRL grand finals and coached St Helens to win the UK Super League championsh­ip.

“You can’t equate this predicamen­t to the pressures of coaching. But the mental strength you’ve got to have in tough times in football helps,” he said.


Anderson is now training two hours a day in a gym at the Royal Rehab centre in Sydney.

“When I say training, it’s all about mobility exercises,” he said. “I’ve got to try to learn how to get in and out of bed.

“You’ve got to learn how to use muscles again. You’ve got to learn to try to do the ordinary things in everyday life.”

His aim is to be back in the family home in eight weeks.


Anderson is still working as head of recruitmen­t at the Sydney Roosters.

From the rehab centre he is doing 10 hours a week. He can’t type, but uses voice to text technology to write his emails.

The long-term plan is to get back to work at Roosters’ offices in Moore Park for two days a week.

“I love the job and they’ve been a wonderful support.”


Independen­t commission chairman Peter V’landys will launch a fundraisin­g initiative at NRL headquarte­rs on Monday.

Guests will include two-time premiershi­p-winning coach Ivan Cleary, who was coached by Anderson at the Warriors, and representa­tives from the clubs he coached.

The aim is to provide ongoing financial support for essential equipment, home modificati­ons and ongoing specialist physiother­apy.

 ?? Picture: Sam Ruttyn ?? Ex NRL coach Daniel Anderson at the Royal Rehab centre in Sydney.
Picture: Sam Ruttyn Ex NRL coach Daniel Anderson at the Royal Rehab centre in Sydney.

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