Cummins' long road to recovery

Rugby standout returns for stretch run after devastating injuries a year earlier

Niall Cummins is ready for a hands on role in the South Delta Sun Devils’ march back to the B.C. AAA Boys Rugby Championships.

It was a little over a year ago, Cummins saw his Grade 11 season come to an abrupt halt after a horrific injury in a home game against Robert Bateman. In an attempt to pick up the loose ball, the standout scrum-half (or No. 9) was hit on each side by a couple of opponents. His upper body bounced upon impact but his legs remained firmly planted in the SDSS oval grass surface.

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“My feet just stayed when I got hit the first time and they stayed again on the second one as well. I felt something pop in my right leg so I knew that was an MCL or ACL. The left leg I wasn’t sure about until I noticed the swelling,” recalled Cummins.

Delta Firefighters were first on the scene followed by an ambulance that drove right onto the field. The game was delayed for about an hour before Cummins was off to Delta Hospital.

X-rays showed a clean break of the tibia in his left leg that at least wouldn’t require surgery. Doctors were also certain he had ligament damage in his right knee. An MRI four months later determined an ACL tear that would heal on its own.

The Sun Devils used the devastating injuries to their popular teammate as a rallying point for the rest of the season.

 Cummins cheered on from the sidelines in a walking cast and knee brace as South Delta went on to win its first-ever provincial championship.

Rugby has always been a big part of his life.

He has been playing at the club level for about a decade and his father Barry is a long time official. Sure there was a desire to play again but not to the point where he would risk getting hurt again.

“Just watching them play, you want to get back on the field, even watching Six Nations (international men’s competition) on TV. But really my goal was to be able to go on a ski trip with my family over spring break,” said Cummins. “When I felt comfortable skiing I thought why not put the cleats on again.”

Cummins received the blessing of his doctor and physiotherapist. One final MRI revealed a clean bill of health and he made his return two weeks ago in a home field win over DW Poppy. His workload has slowly increased with the playoffs looming.

 “He is such a great story,” smiled South Delta head coach Spencer Baines. “Of all the guys on the team, he is the one that loves rugby the most. It is in his blood and he is such a natural.

“He seems like he is 100 percent and right now it is probably more psychological now than physical. “Our current No. 9 has been phenomenal and he just started playing last year but I think you have to have Niall playing scrum half eventually and our current #9 on the field as well.

“Niall can be such a difference maker out there and his rugby IQ is off the charts.”

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