Dannevirke rugby referee James Kendrick’s actions after an on-field accident during a secondary schoolgirls rugby game has resulted in him being called a “hero.”
Kendrick spent an hour lying on a cold, wet paddock, with night approaching, holding the neck of an injured player in May.
Kendrick was refereeing a game between Dannevirke High School’s girls’ 1st XV and Palmerston North Girls High School’s 1st XV when, 10-minutes into the game, a PNGHS player was injured in a tackle, suffering a knock to her head.
The game had just kicked off at 4pm at the Dannevirke High School grounds when Kendrick noticed the girl was down.
His actions have drawn praise and admiration from people on the sideline, including Jinny Kean whose granddaughter was playing for the Dannevirke team.
“James calmed the girl’s mother and then lay on the ground for more than an hour, holding the player’s neck still,” she told the Dannevirke News.
“It was a cold day and it was getting dark. I was absolutely gobsmacked by his response and, in my mind, that girl owes her life to him and on that day James was my hero.
“There he was out on that cold paddock in short, shorts with his mind totally focused on that girl.”
Jinny was so impressed with Kendrick’s actions that afternoon, she sent him a card to acknowledge what he’s done.
But Kendrick, a St John first responder and a long-time member of the Dannevirke Volunteer Fire Brigade, said he was just doing what had to be done.
“It was quite humbling for someone I didn’t know to acknowledge what I’d done,” he said.
“What went on around me I didn’t really know, but I remember saying, ‘I’m not leaving my patient’.
“The girl, 16, had no movement from the waist down and Dannevirke’s Troy Gerbich, the manager of the PNGHS team, called for an ambulance. I just rattled off my St John registration number and then concentrated on the girl.”
There was to be a long wait for the ambulance.
“It was cold and wet and it was about getting the girl off the ground,” Kendrick said.
The fire siren went up and the Dannevirke Volunteer Fire Brigade arrived, as well as an off-duty paramedic.
“It’s good to see your mates turn up in a situation like that because you don’t need to second-guess anything.
“I just carried on supporting the girl … we talked about her school ball and laughed about a cucumber drink,” he said.
After an hour, the rescue helicopter arrived and flew the girl to Middlemore Hospital, as a precaution, to access the best advice and help.
And before Kendrick left the rugby ground that Sunday, two girls came up and game him a hug, to say thanks.
“I worried about the player all the next day, but I did get information on how she was going and she’s okay now,” Kendrick said.
“I had to skills to deal with the situation and it’s one I’ve been in before. I am hoping somewhere down the track I’ll get to see the girl again because you build up quite a bond in that sort of situation.”
Kendrick has received a letter from Palmerston North Girls’ High School principal Karene Biggs, who has praised his actions and said, “Medical care was immediate and professional.”
But Kendrick isn’t talking up what he did.
“You hope if it happened to your kid or grandkid someone would do the same for them,” he said.
This is the 30th year Kendrick has spent controlling rugby games throughout Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu, but said he couldn’t give his time to the sport he loves without the support of his employers and workmates at BP and Dannevirke Mitre 10.
And this isn’t the first time Kendrick has been in a similar situation.
In August 2013, he was controlling a JAB representative rugby game in Dannevirke when an under-13 player went down in a tackle, with a suspected neck injury.
Kendrick called the game off and made the decision to call in the rescue helicopter after he and the player had been on the ground for some time.
“It was freezing as I was lying there with him,” he said.
Having started his referee’s career at 27, now 30 years on Kendrick said it was important more local referees were trained.
“We need more young fellas as it’s a magnificent career, not just for volunteers like me, but as a paid career,” he said.