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

Updated: Sep 10

Cruising for Stapo

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.