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Port AdVenture Cruises raising funds to support a very special Dad, Nathan Stapleton

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

Nathan Stapleton "Stapo" is a fighter in more ways than one, and he is one special dad the community is coming together to support.

Father’s Day is a special occasion on the calendar when families get the opportunity to truly express their love, respect and gratitude to their superstar patriarch, with the date falling on September 4th this year in Australia. It will be an especially special day for one man in particular whose story epitomises the very definition of tragedy, heartbreak, love, courage and hope.

This particular young man went from being a blissfully married, care-free dad of one, with another child on the way, to being pronounced dead then diagnosed as quadriplegic. But the man and his family didn’t stop fighting and, amazingly, he will celebrate on September 4th being a father to two wonderful young boys. His story is heartbreaking yet truly inspirational in good measure.

Nathan Stapleton is a name that will be familiar to many and a household name to fans of Rugby League. The 32-year-old from Deepwater, NSW, had a successful five-year spell with Cronulla Sharks where he scored 17 tries in 61 appearances between 2009-14 as a winger, fullback and centre.

Nathan Stapleton scores for the Cronulla Sharks. Picture: AAP / Robb Cox
Nathan Stapleton scores for the Cronulla Sharks, Picture: AAP / Robb Cox

After retiring from the professional game, Nathan married his partner of 15 years Kate, and the couple moved out to rural NSW to live on a farm while welcoming young son Harry into the world. Life was idyllic for this young couple who had so much to look forward to with another child on the way.

The Day Life Changed for Stapo

Nathan Stapleton, Kate and Harry after Nathan's life changing injury. Photo: Armidale Express
Nathan Stapleton, Kate and Harry after Nathan's life changing injury. Photo: Armidale Express

However, that all changed on April 9 this year when Nathan, playing his first game for country club Boorowa Goldies in West Wyalong sustained an injury that left him with a broken neck and a massively injured spinal cord. In fact, he was pronounced dead on the pitch for 16 minutes before off-duty nurse Louise McCabe, who was at the game, managed to revive him and keep him stable until the ambulance came and took him to the hospital.

Despite initial fears that Nathan had sustained serious brain damage, he awoke from sedation with his mind intact, and to be given the news that he was paralysed from the shoulders down and would never walk again. It is the stuff of nightmares for us all but especially hard-hitting for a former professional athlete.

“The second it happened, everything gets put into perspective and everything you stressed about before is so insignificant,” Kate said in a recent interview with A Current Affair.

Nathan agreed, reflecting on the early moments in hospital: “I had to make a choice. I could either sit here and feel sorry for myself and bring everyone down with me, or suck it up, accept it for what it is and focus on the things that I can do,” he said.

Good Luck Baby

The power of family in times of adversity really is something very special and what happened next solidified that decision by Nathan to fight and move forward positively.

Kate gave birth to young Angus only a few weeks after the tragic accident and Nathan was there to witness the birth and support his wife throughout thanks to the wonderful teams at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital and the adjoining Royal Hospital for Women who went above and beyond to ensure the couple could be together.

Former NRL player Nathan Stapleton’s second son, Angus. Picture: A Current Affair
Former NRL player Nathan Stapleton’s second son, Angus. Picture: A Current Affair

“We’re very thankful and blessed that we could be there together at the birth and it's something that we’ll never forget,” Nathan said. The couple refer to Angus as their 'good luck baby'.

That’s not to forget his older brother Harry who the couple say seems to have adjusted and accepted the situation with his father being restricted to hospital. However, it is hoped Nathan will be able to leave soon and return to the family home in rural NSW. He is mastering his new electronic wheelchair that he navigates with his chin and has the use of his laptop that he programs via facial recognition software.

Having such a rock solid relationship with Kate and being the father of two wonderful young boys has given Nathan the shining light to fight and look forward with positivity.

“No one wants to be where I’m sitting but at the end of the day there's so much to look forward to,” says Nathan. “I’ve got a beautiful wife, I’ve got two beautiful boys and I’m blessed I can still be there for them.”

Opportunity to help

The local community has rallied around this special couple in an effort to help support as best as they can; an online fundraiser has been established to support Nathan’s recovery efforts and his former club are setting up a series of events.

Closer to home, David Lazarus and Elsa Barbosa from Port AdVenture Cruises in Port Macquarie, were so moved by Nathan and his family’s plight after seeing the interview on Nine Now A Current Affair that they also decided to organise a fund-raising initiative in order to help.

With the assistance of supporting businesses in the Port Macquarie region, they are putting together a mega raffle package for everyone and anyone to buy tickets and win the donated prizes.

Although the process of securing all prizes is ongoing, some of those thus far confirmed include accommodation houses, collectable NRL memorabilia, local experiences such as Billabong Zoo, Cassegrain, Majestic Cinema, and even a helicopter ride.

Cruise for Stapo

What's happening and how you can help Stapo.

Fund Raising Launch for Stapo on Sunday, September 11th at 2.30 pm

The fundraiser will be launched on during a live appearance by cover band Eric Grothe and the Gurus with special guest appearance Mark "Spud" Carroll. Many will remember Eric as a tear away winger for Parramatta, NSW and Australia, although he is also a fine frontman for the band nowadays too!

Mark "Spud" Carroll (born 26 February 1967) is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played as a prop in the 1980s and 1990s. He represented Australia internationally and New South Wales in State of Origin, and played club football in Australia for the Penrith Panthers, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and in England for the London Broncos.

WOW, what a treat you shouldn't miss! Book this cruise now!

Raffle tickets on sale now

Buy raffle tickets on any Port AdVenture cruises: Tickets for the raffle will be on sale on all Port AdVenture cruises from Sunday, September 11th until 10:30am on Saturday, September 24th.

Cruise for Stapo Raffle Draw on Saturday 24th September

That day will be a special day for PortAdVenture Cruises as they celebrate their one-year “birthday” of the Rhythmboat in Port Macquarie after COVID-19 had forced the business to relocate from Sydney Harbour.

Triple MMM will be staging an outside broadcast from 9am – 12 noon while celebrations for the opening of Fisherman’s Wharf and the beautification of the boardwalk now linking the Break Wall, Town Green and Fisherman’s wharf will take place.

At 11am, the raffle draw will take place on the dockside of PortAdVenture Cruises. So come celebrate with us at 77 Clarence St, Port Macquarie, NSW 2444.

Another rugby league legend, Benny Elias, has been approached to actually conduct the draw. The former Tigers, NSW state of origin captain and vice-captain of Australia on two Kangaroo tours has yet to confirm although it is hoped he will be able to make it for such a special occasion.

“We understand that Nathan and his family don’t live in Port Macquarie and there are a lot of locals that also need help,” explains Dave Lazarus. “However, we have a very close connection with rugby league and to have input from Eric Grothe and hopefully Benny Elias, we hope that the Port Macquarie community sees this as a wonderful opportunity to help in a small way by buying tickets or even a donation.

“We feel that if people take the time to see the A Current Affair package, they will feel the same way as we do and help us by either donating a prize or buying a ticket for the raffle,” concluded Dave.


For more information about how to help or participate, please get in touch with:

David Lazarus & Elsa Barbosa Port AdVenture Cruises

Facebook: t/ 0417 681 031 or 0434 393 199


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