Seeing Matt Stonham play his first game of football since having a seizure and collapsing on the field felt like “cycle complete” for Lake Macquarie coach Anthony Richards.
The return game may have merely been a trial with the Roosters under 20s side last month but to Stonham it was enough to give him an “itchy foot” to pull on the gloves competitively again.
“Richo was a bit short. I was happy to do it and wanted to do it; I didn’t quite know how I’d go but I felt comfortable out there, so I was pretty happy,” Stonham said.
Richards asked Stonham to join him at the Roosters this season as goalkeeping coach.
The Roosters first-grade coach was one of the first on the scene when the now 32-year-old goalkeeper collapsed while playing in goals for Maitland in July 2015.
After a series of tests Stonham was told he had a brain tumour. Surgery then six months of chemotherapy followed. He could not play last year but stayed involved in the game by helping with Adamstown’s Women’s Premier League program.
“It was either sit at home and feel sorry for yourself or get out there and do something and stay involved in the game,” he said.
Richards wanted Stonham on board with the Roosters this season for a number of reasons.
“He’s really good at what he does,” Richards said. “The other thing is the friendship.
“I’d been his coach some years ago and to see him go through what he did on the field that day was traumatic for everyone.
“Then to see him rebuild himself, and go through chemo ... for me to get him here and around players and involved in that environment and then to progress him into a game was awesome for me. That was cycle complete.”
At this stage Stonham is focused on coaching but said the game did spark his desire to play again.
“That was the first competitive game I’ve played since, which was good just to get it out of the way; it’s given me a lot of confidence,” Stonham said. “I was happy to just coach but that came along and I got the itchy foot again for it, which is good.
“It’s got me thinking about playing again and even things I do in everyday life; I know that my head’s safe in that way, I’m not going to have another seizure because I got past that game and that’s given me a lot of confidence in life, not just on the field.”