A freak accident has changed a young footballer's life and left his club reeling, with Melton admitting football is an afterthought as it throws its support behind a much-loved teammate.
Dyson Stevens broke his neck while laying a tackle early in the Bloods' 34-point win against Darley at the weekend, with play suspended for nearly an hour while paramedics treated him on the ground.
The 27-year-old was transported immediately to Royal Melbourne Hospital and placed in an induced coma.
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Scans revealed Stevens had shattered his C4 vertebrae, requiring removal with two successful spinal surgeries.
Melton did not train on Tuesday night, coach Aaron Tymms instead inviting the players to talk about how they were feeling after the incident.
"He was just laying a tackle, his head hit the deck, and that was it," Tymms told The Courier.
"It was nothing really, no malice. You'd do 100 of those a game. The kid got crunched twice as hard earlier in the game when he took a mark in the forward 50.
"It's a pretty s**t situation. There are no answers. The docs have no answers.
"Now, it's just a waiting game."
Stevens has been taken out of the coma and is understood to have escaped severe damage to his spinal cord, though his long-term recovery remains unclear.
The C4 vertebrae is at the top of the neck and protects the nerves that help control upper shoulder movement and power the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle used for breathing, according to SAHealth.
It's understood Stevens has been taken off an intubator and is talking and breathing independently.
Melton president Brian McNabb said the injury had rocked the whole club.
"I shouldn't admit it, but I cried for three days after it happened," he told The Courier.
"We had that informal meeting Tuesday night with every player in attendance... and there were a couple of players who declared they were (struggling).
"We're morbid, don't get me wrong. Everyone that rang me I couldn't talk to them. But I think it just brings us closer together as a group."
McNabb admitted he didn't want the match to proceed after Stevens went down early in the first quarter.
"I shouldn't admit this, but I didn't want the game to continue as president," he said.
"But I spoke to our coach and our captain and then talked to them five minutes later, and they were adamant that the boys wanted to play.
"The umpires were 100 per cent supportive of whatever decision was going to be made. Everyone used the common sense rule."
The undefeated Bloods host East Point this weekend, a match placed into perspective for Tymms and all involved.
"I was chatting to a few of the assistant coaches; how do you tell a bloke to put their head over the footy and go for the hardball when they know what can happen?" Tymms said.
"Same for the players - how do you go into to get a hardball when you know exactly what could happen to you?
"If there were a fault issue instead of a freak accident, at least you'd have something to blame. But, there's nothing.
"We'll see how we respond on Saturday, but I'm not expecting too much, to be honest. It is what it is."
Stevens re-joined Melton in 2019, crossing from Western Region league power and former junior club Deer Park.
The forward had beenaffiliated with the Bloods in 2016 and 2017 while playing for the Northern Blues in the VFL.
McNab said Stevens was a much-loved teammate and expected an already tight-knit playing group to rally around each other.
"The boys are doing it for Dyson, basically," he said.
"It sounds a bit silly but like that night on Tuesday (it was like) 'oh, I wish Dyson was here'. We called him 'Disco', he was the life of the party for obvious reasons.
"The kids are even tighter now after Saturday night."
McNabb said AFL Victoria head Brad Scott had been in contact to check on Stevens' wellbeing amid an outpouring of support from the football fraternity and all corners of the community.
"The support has been outstanding from far and wide," he said.
"Not just within my network of people I know but also other junior and senior local clubs have been outstanding, offering whatever may be needed.
"The owner of my company where I work said 'here's a cheque, you fill it out, you tell me what you need'.
"We don't want to go down that track yet...but that's how people are reacting. 'When you're ready, Nabby, whatever you feel you need to help this kid, we'll help him as well'."
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