'The next tackle could cripple me'
TAJ Ross loved playing rugby league.
But when doctors told him the next blow to his neck could leave him a paraplegic, he chose to walk away.
It was the toughest decision an 11-year-old could have to make, but he was left with little choice.
The Caloundra Sharks under-12 player was taken to Caloundra Hospital after he copped a knee to the back of the neck during a game last weekend.
It was his second serious onfield neck injury and the major third blow to the area in his short life.
Doctors warned him he risked being permanently paralysed if he continued playing and on the weekend, Taj told his family he would be quitting the game he loved.
"I didn't want to take the risk of being in a wheelchair the rest of my life," he said.
"It was a hard decision.
"Rugby league means everything to me. There are friends you make who become your family.
"I still want to go down on the weekends and watch my mates play."
His mother, Amber Ross, said she was proud of Taj for his decision.
"It was recommended to us that he not play. As a parent, it was my job to tell him the risks," she said.
"I just sat Taj down and said I wasn't telling him not to play, because he loved it.
"He's played for four years. I know how much it means to him.
"As much as he loves it, is he willing to play another game and possibly end up in wheelchair for life?
"It was his choice, but I said if a bad tackle happens and he's in a wheelchair, I'd never forgive myself.
"After many tears, he decided it's too much of a risk."
Taj was injured in a tackle about five minutes into the second half of last Saturday's match.
It was the same game that saw friend and team mate Brock Edwards taken to Nambour General Hospital with post traumatic injury amnesia.
Taj was also injured in a rugby league match last year.
His first blow to the head and neck came when he was only 18 months old and fell 3m onto concrete.
Mrs Ross said Taj always wore headgear and would not even train without it.
He will now decide whether he plays Oztag or touch football.