A 15-year-old rugby league player will be forced to wait a year for knee surgery because insurance for the sport is inadequate.
Adrian Dalmonte ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) three weeks ago during a training session at Hollymount Oval in Woonona.
Now in his sixth year with the Woonona Bulli Bushrangers, Dalmonte has been a junior Illawarra representative player and had hoped to continue his rugby league career to the NRL competition.
''It's been really depressing as I'm having a hard time getting through it. It's taken a toll on me mentally.''
Now his dream has been dashed with little hope of him playing football, or any sport again until at least 2016.
Doctors told Dalmonte that he needs an ACL reconstruction. His parents, who are currently unemployed, had to give up hospital cover on their private health insurance 18 months ago to make ends meet.
Since the injury Dalmonte's knee has collapsed two dozen times and his parents fear that if not treated soon he could sustain further damage.
"I was walking up the stairs at school and it [knee] went out and I fell over face first. It wasn't good," he said. "It's been really depressing as I'm having a hard time getting through it. It's taken a toll on me mentally. I can't do a lot of things."
Like every other young player, Dalmonte’s parents paid the annual registration fee at the start of the year believing they would be covered if their son was badly injured.
But the club, like all other junior clubs in NSW, comes under the Country Rugby League banner, which organises the insurance. Under the insurance, Dalmonte is only eligible for $2500, way short of the $10,000 needed for a knee operation.
To add further insult, Adrian’s dad, Andrew Dalmonte, said in order to make a claim, medical expenses had to be paid upfront – an expense they could ill afford.
‘‘I think insurance is a stretch in terms of the word,’’ Mr Dalmonte said. ‘‘It won’t even cover his physiotherapy. I don’t even know how they can call it insurance, it’s such a joke.’’
Mum Sandra Dalmonte is disgusted with the scheme.
‘‘No-one realistically thinks that a young person playing a sport like rugby league will be injury free, but if the higher-echelons of the league fraternity were serious about looking after the young players coming through...then a proper insurance scheme really should be a no-brainer,’’ she said.
‘‘Considering the incredible amount of money flowing through the rugby league system, surely players of all ages deserve better treatment than this.’’
Club president Troy Jones agreed the amount was inadequate.
Adrian is the second Woonona Bulli Bushrangers’ player this year to seriously injure their ACL. That player, too is on a waiting list for surgery.
‘‘The insurance issue has nothing to do with the Illawarra League, it comes under Country Rugby League,’’ Mr Jones said.
‘‘It’s all in the fine print but I don’t think the amount is adequate when you consider how many players there are paying for insurance.’’
Mr Dalmonte said knee injuries such as his son’s were now more common among younger players as they tried to replicate the tackles of senior players.