Battered Toia pays big price
Luke Toia’s body punishes him for his football career every time he tries to lift his four-month-old daughter Molly out of her cot.
It turns running, swimming, sitting at a desk for long periods or hanging out the washing into extreme challenges. And, as he shuffles around the house on cold winter mornings, Toia knows he looks much older than his 34 years.
The former Fremantle rover’s body had been broken so many times that it no longer works properly. He considered the years of battering were normal and it took a friend’s son’s school project for him to realise the extent of the carnage.
“A young kid did a school project last year and it had a photo of me playing. He drew all of the injuries that I’ve had and I got upset looking at it,” Toia said.
“I didn’t realise what I had actually done. It’s horrible.
“Ligaments in both ankles, a fractured leg, knee reconstruction, cartilage out in both knees, torn hamstrings, torn adductor nearly off the bone, a hernia and broken ribs. I’ve broken both arms, broken fingers, dislocated elbows, shoulder, neck, back and broken my nose.
“All of a sudden you start reading through it from top to bottom and think no wonder I’m a bit sore.”
Toia played 67 games for Fremantle. His last AFL match was in 2002, 11 months after fracturing three vertebrae in the WAFL when he landed on his head after a marking contest.
Injuries were a constant companion for the cheeky on-baller and he knows today’s players risk the same types of pain every week.
Seeing Jonathan Brown getting his face smashed for the third time in 11 months and watching the constant stream of collision injuries reminds him of what he put his body through.
Toia doesn’t feel sorry for himself though and has never blamed football or Fremantle for his plight.
He remains indebted to Dockers physio Jeff Boyle for knitting his body back together.
Toia enjoys catching up with former opponents and teammates and admires that today’s players play with so much courage and skill. But Toia is far too young to be battling as he is. He’s only six months older than North Melbourne star Brent Harvey.
“The thing I struggle with is trying to pick my daughter out of the cot, having broken both arms and elbows as well. Also having that pressure from where I broke my spine.
“I certainly struggle with it. I struggle sitting at a desk for more than a couple of hours in the air conditioning because of all the arthritis. You notice it once you’ve been sitting down for a while.
“I’m carrying the obligatory 10 kilos more than I should after finishing footy. I struggle with no cartilage in either knee. Running is out of the question.”
Now living in Bunbury working as a building and design consultant for WA Country Builders, Toia needs a knee replacement, but he has been advised to wait several years before having the operation.
“The sad thing is, it’s not your teammates, it’s your wife (Mel) and family that have to see you shuffling around like an old man. That’s what gets my wife down sometimes. Seeing me shuffling around and not being able to hang the washing out.
“I don’t bitch and whinge about it. All we talk about is the good times. You cop your lot and move on.”