However, after this second procedure, he had to relearn to use one of his hands and lost leg function again. Recovery from this was slow-moving, and Delaney spent a year living at home, working to get back on his feet with the support of his family.


‘When you are an 18-year-old at university, playing hockey and having fun, thinking you’re bulletproof, to kind of having everything taken away from you straight away, and then sacrificing your dignity through this is pretty challenging.’ He credits the support of his friends and family for getting through this time.

‘Thankfully, I’ve got a really amazing support network, and my family is pretty cool.’


Delaney recalls that his mother took a year off work and essentially lived at the spinal unit with him, his father making major renovations to the house to make it more accessible for him. His brother was also at the spinal unit with him most days.


‘I had a really, really tight kind of support network around me, which everyone talks about but, until you’re in the trenches… you kind of don’t know who your friends and family are.’


Delaney received a large amount of support from the hockey community during this period – Northland Hockey put together a fundraiser to help him, along with his family, to go to Germany twice for stem cell transplants that would aid in his recovery.


The Black Sticks Men’s team got involved, playing a game at Northland against most of Delaney’s original teammates – ‘That was really special and kind of meant a lot to me in terms of the community kind of getting back in behind me, and the Black Sticks men’s team actually came and visited me in the hospital when I broke my neck.’


He remarks on the leap in improvement he made with his movement after the combination of physio, personal training and his first stem cell treatment. His arm went from barely functional to being able to make full use of its movement again, regaining the ability to start writing, to shake people’s hands, even beginning to play darts.


It was after his second injection that he regained a lot of the strength he had lost in his lower body, such as the reclamation of his ability to run again. He discusses where he feels he is at today – that he’s made a great deal of progress, being able to hit a ball and play sports such as golf, imagining that he has recovered about 80% of his full capacity.


He’s ecstatic that he can still get involved in sports physically – ‘So I think one of my biggest fears was that I couldn’t connect again, because when you’re with your friends and mates and stuff , because when you’re in the sporting world, all of a sudden directly out of the sporting world and can’t participate in that environment again, you’re kind of lost as a character because it’s your identity, right, being physical and sporty.’


It is an enormous relief for him that he is still able to live a normal life physically – taking part in activities one would normally take for granted. ‘And even now, picking up my daughter and swinging her around and, you know… it’s really humbling because it makes you think back, what, to well back in 2007, 2008, I couldn’t move my hand to my mouth and now I’m holding my little girl and pointing at sheep and cows.’


‘A big driver for me is my family, coming home from a tough day to the love and incredible support of my wife and kids really refills my cup.’


When asked about what he believes he has learned about himself over his accident and the recovery, he explains that it has matured him – ‘because when you’re forced to go through adversity or a major challenge, or setback… it cuts through a lot of crap, I suppose, and you really kind of focus on what’s important.’


For Delaney, people are what is important, and although he recognises that he has lost a lot of people through the events of the accident, he says it was a good filtering system, as the connections and relationships he now has are solid.


He has learnt a great deal about himself in terms of his strengths as a person, and how important his mindset was through everything. ‘I think the biggest thing that most people that know me for is that I like to joke around… Because, I suppose, you don’t know when something’s going to get taken from us or when you’re not going to have access to something you’re used to.”


When queried about what hockey means to him, Delaney emphasizes that hockey has been one of the biggest elements of consistency throughout his life. He conveys the way in which he has seen the game bring people together over the years.


‘Hockey is a beautiful game because you make so many cool friends across the country … And because they’re long-term participants, you have long term relationships and see them regularly. So, it’s a quite a unique game in terms of your connections are always at the same place.’


He talks about how his love for hockey has matured over the years as well – ‘When I was younger, as a kid, my love of the game was probably a little bit more selfish, so driven by how I was performing and how I could contribute to a team… Then when I had my accident to transition kind of towards coaching, it grows you as a person because you start to have this, I suppose, joy through others. So, seeing an under 21 team win a tournament or a little kid learning how to hold a stick, just gives you immense joy.’


Although he admits that he occasionally has regrets, wondering how far his potential could have taken him if his injury never would have taken place, and that getting past these feelings was a grieving process, he concludes it has taught him that life will always have its challenges. That everyone has their challenges – ‘Everyone’s got shadows that follow them around … most people’s scars are on the inside, my scars are on the outside… I suppose the motto is just keep going.’

New Zealand

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