Former footy star PJ Marsh opens up being abandoned by the NRL after breaking his neck


Former Eels, Warriors and Maroons star PJ Marsh claims he was abandoned by the NRL after his neck broke in a horror tackle: ‘I hated football … I didn’t want my kids to play’

  • PJ Marsh was an NRL star with Parramatta, New Zealand and Brisbane Broncos
  • In 2003, a fractured neck from a tackle instantly turned Marsh’s life upside down
  • Marsh, 42, wants to see crusher tackles result in lengthy suspensions for players

Former NRL star PJ Marsh will never forget the date – June 14, 2003.

It was the day his life changed forever – and when he began resenting rugby league.

Turning out for the Warriors against Parramatta, a seemingly routine tackle turned Marsh’s life upside down.

‘I heard a couple of cracking noises,’ Marsh recalled. ‘As I tried to get up to play the ball, I had this ridiculous pain through my whole body.

‘You try to wiggle your toes and move your fingers. It’s shocking fear. They (medical staff) put me in a brace. Then an ambulance. Then hospital.’

Subsequent x-rays revealed the hooker had a fracture in his neck following a tackle from Eels enforcer Darren Tracey. 

Former NRL star PJ Marsh (pictured with his son) wants to see lengthy suspensions introduced for crusher-style tackles that can result in the sort of catastrophic damage he suffers

In 2003 Marsh fractured his neck when playing for the Warriors against the Eels - and then was sidelined until 2005

In 2003 Marsh fractured his neck when playing for the Warriors against the Eels – and then was sidelined until 2005

Marsh was then sidelined until 2005 and faced an uncertain future.

With football his all-consuming passion, Marsh didn’t cope with his unexpected setback.

He ‘escaped’ to Middlemount, a small country town about 250km south-west of Mackay in Queensland, and freely admits he battled mental health issues.

‘At my lowest points I felt pretty damn ordinary,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.

‘I hated football, I hated everything. I didn’t watch it, I didn’t want my kids to play. I gave all my jerseys away. My Warriors grand final jersey. I didn’t want anything to remind me of the sh** I’d been through.’

Marsh eventually returned to the NRL, rejoining the Eels before another injury saw his career finish at the Broncos in 2010.

Marsh knew he was in trouble when he heard a 'couple of cracking noises' in his neck in the 2003 incident - his subsequent time away from the game saw him resent rugby league

Marsh knew he was in trouble when he heard a ‘couple of cracking noises’ in his neck in the 2003 incident – his subsequent time away from the game saw him resent rugby league

Marsh also received no welfare or assistance from the NRL when it came to his medical bills after his ended in 2010

Marsh also received no welfare or assistance from the NRL when it came to his medical bills after his ended in 2010

He is speaking out in the hope the NRL will enforce much tougher penalties for crusher tackles.

Not $1000 fines for players on monster contracts, like the penalty handed to Melbourne’s Felise Kaufusi after round six – but multiple-game bans.

Now aged 42, Marsh – who also chalked up four Origin appearances for Queensland – still suffers from pain in his neck and back, but has ‘learnt to deal with it.’

He is adamant ‘not speaking out’ about his personal struggles was to his detriment. 

Marsh also said he received no welfare call or assistance from the NRL when it came to his medical bills.

These days he works on drill rigs in coalmines and life is good – but he knows it could have been a lot worse. 

HELP IS JUST A PHONE CALL AWAY:

If you or someone you know needs assistance with mental health:

LIFELINE on 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au

BEYOND BLUE 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au

HEADSPACE on 1800 650 890

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