THE BIG INTERVIEW
A serious neck injury caused Chris Tuson’s stellar rugby league career to end prematurely in June.
Leyland-born Tuson triggered a previous injury whilst playing for Super league side Hull FC against Warrington Wolves and announced his retirement aged just 26 last week.
With just five minutes left on the clock at the KC Stadium Tuson’s head was twisted in a challenge and he was left temporarily paralysed.
Tuson had suffered a bulging disc – the same injury he suffered in Hull’s pre-season that stalled his debut for the Yorkshire club until March this year. A cervical bulging disc can cause neck pain, arm pain, numbness and paralysis.
Tuson was a regular on the physio’s bench during his time at Wigan with knee injuries but when he lay on the pitch unable to move he was terrified.
The incident shook up the former Wigan Warriors, Leyland Warriors and Bamber Bridge forward and he was advised by a specialist to give up the game for the sake of his health.
It took a while for Tuson to accept the news that his career was over.
But the former Runshaw College student, who left Wigan in 2013 on a high as a double title winner, was offered a role on Hull’s backroom staff.
Tuson has already gained his coaching badges and although he did no’t expect to move into that side of the game at this age he is looking forward to a new challenge.
He is taking a break from the sport for a couple of weeks and then he will become Hull FC’s Under-19s assistant coach and the first-team player welfare officer.
And Tuson recalls the harrowing moment when he was immobilised.
He said: “It has been widely reported that I suffered a back injury but it is my neck.
“Last year I had a training incident in pre-season and I ended up having a bulging disc but since then I have played a few matches for Hull.
“I was playing rugby and with five minutes to go I got my head twisted and I ended up temporarily paralysed on the pitch.
“I couldn’t move, it was a scary moment. I’d triggered a previous injury and a specialist doctor told me it was too risky to carry on playing.
“Obviously I was devastated – I really went through all the emotions, it was a real shock.
“It took three weeks for it to sink in.
“I didn’t believe it was real until I had to tell the lads.”
The management team at the Black and Whites were impressed with Tuson’s knowledge of the game and his coaching skills and have subsequently offered him a role within the club.
And Tuson is thankful that Hull have given him an opportunity to continue being a part of the club.
He said: “I am staying on in Hull and I am very thankful that they have offered me a role.
“I’m just taking a break at the moment before I start.
“I’m looking at holidays right now, I just need to get my head straight. It still hasn’t all sunk in but the coaching role is something that I’m hoping will go well.
“I’m hoping to repay the favour when I start.
“I have got my coaching badges so it was an option
“Obviously I didn’t want it to be this stage of my life.
“I’m hoping it’s for me…I enjoy doing it.”
Tuson made his debut for Wigan Warriors in 2008 and the highlight of his playing career was winning the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 2013.
He was not picked to play in the 2010 final so the 2013 Grand Final winners’ ring was a much sweeter prize in 2013.
And the boyhood Warriors fan revealed that the moment was a dream come true.
He said: “The highlight of my career was playing in and winning the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
“Going from watching Wigan when I was growing up, to actually being part of the team and playing in a final and win it was fantastic. It was all great. Looking back, it was a great time
“I didn’t really see it as work – it was going in to see my mates every day. It was good.
“From trips away and playing in massive games, when I reflect on my time at Wembley, it was just ace.”
Tuson left Wigan in 2013 to join Hull FC to ensure a regular starting spot.
But after suffering the freak neck injury in training his debut was put on hold.
Despite the injury, Tuson enjoyed ‘stepping out of his comfort zone’ to join the Black and Whites and is looking forward to maintaining his relationship with the club.
He said: “It was a shock to me, since I’d only been at one professional club before now.
“I went form knowing everyone at one club, all of the backroom staff and the players, to only knowing one person at Hull.
“It was heading into the unknown and I really stepped out of my comfort zone but I settled in quite well.
“My missus has got a job in Manchester so I’m not sure if we will live in Hull or somewhere in the middle.”
Tuson does not regret a single decision he made during his playing career but he has not ruled out a move to the Australian league, the NRL, as a coach.
He said: “There are not many English coaches that go over to the NRL – but never say never.
“I don’t regret any of my playing career.
“Obvioulsy it would have been nice to play abroad but it wasn’t how in panned out.”
And Tuson took time out to praise current Wigan boss Shaun Wane.
Tuson thought his chances of playing professionally were dashed but fatefully Wane – who was Wigan’s Under-19s coach at the time – popped down to watch a Wigan St Patrick’s game and spotted 18-year-old Tuson.
Wane continues to be a big influence on the former second-rower’s career and he is hoping to catch up with him this week.
He said: “The biggest influence on my career I’d have to say was Shaun Wane.
“He scouted me and coached me from 18 and when he moved up to Under-21s coach I moved up into that bracket and so on, until he became head coach.
“He has been there throughout my career, there through every step.
“He gave me a chance and he has been great to me and got the best out of me when I was at Wigan.
“I sort of got to a certain age and the hope of playing was gone,
“I was 18 and most players get picked up at age 13.
“But I was lucky that Shaun Wane was at a game.
“Being a rugby player was probably a goal when I was younger and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Tuson is one of Balshaws High School’s many sporting alumni – footballers Clarke Carlisle and Phil Jones also attended the school.
He started his career at Leyland Warriors and Tuson admits he does not know know why the school is so successsful at producing sporting stars.
He said: “I don’t know what the secret is to be honest – we never really played rugby league at school.
“Bryan Hargreaves, who played for Wigan and St Helens, went to Balshaws too.
“There is quite a lot of sport that comes out of Leyland and I think there is more to come out of it.
“It is a hot-bed that hasn’t really been discovered.
“Playing rugby league in Leyland, no scouts ever came to watch, yet there was so much talent there.
“We are just the lucky ones that happen to have been picked up.
“I loved my time playing with Leyland and Bamber Bridge. It is a good set-up, considering they are not in a rugby league area.
“I moved to St Pats when I was 18 and I still see a lot of the lads.”
Tuson is thankful for his career but he is still in pain.
He said: “It was good to do something I love.
“I’m a bit sore at the moment, it is hard to take.
“In 10 years time I will look back at it and be able to enjoy the memories, like scoring a last-minute winner against Bradford for Wigan in one of the last plays of the game – that is probably the best try I have scored.
“But my family have looked after me, they are all trying to stay around me to make sure I’m not on my own.
“I’m going away with my mum on holiday for a few days to try and get away and then it is back to work.”