- A freak accident left Ashley Treseder paralysed from the chest down
- His mates undertook an overnight, 90km walk to raise funds
- A-League clubs Jets and Mariners gave him a day to remember
“To be sat next to Craig Johnston, Newcastle football royalty, hearing his perspective on the game, and having a beer with him like he was anyone at the pub, it was one of the best nights of my life.”
Beneath the surface of this unshakable, always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life Aussie, he must wish watching Central Coast Mariners-Newcastle Jets, in an executive box with the Liverpool icon, had been under vastly difference circumstances.
Ashley Treseder began 2019 believing it would be the happiest year of his life. Nicknamed Ash 'The Flash’ due to his lightning speed, he was relishing the upcoming season as a playmaker for Broadmeadow Magic and, particularly, his engagement party the following week.
“It was the last day of our school holidays before returning to work,” Ash told FIFA.com. “We drove out to Shoal Bay, a gorgeous part of the east-coast of Australia.
“We’d just been sunbathing, swimming. We had a really nice lunch, discussing our engagement party, the wedding, plans for the future. I couldn’t have been happier.
“I was walking to the car, but then I turned back and said, ‘I’m gonna have one last jump.’ There’s a pier. There’s probably 20 kids at a time jumping off. I’d done that same pier easily a dozen times before.”
This time, however, a calamitous twist of irony was in store for Ash. The man who worked as a disability support worker, caring for people in wheelchairs, ended up paralysed from the chest down.
“I hadn’t realised, but this time it was lower than low-tide,” he said. “I thought I’d crashed into cement.”
Ash broke two vertebrae in his neck, shattered another, and suffered spinal cord and nerve damage. If paralysis wasn’t harsh enough, financial ruin threatened Ash.
He required five months’ rehab at a private hospital, exorbitant assistive technology and home modifications, while he continues to incur treatment costs. Fortunately he was blessed by the generosity of the New South Wales community.
The Newcastle Jets fan explained: “Three boys that I played with at Wallsend FC, they brainstormed a bit and thought, ‘How can we raise some funds?’ Our first game of the season was against Central Coast Mariners, the big derby. So they came up with the idea to walk from one stadium to the other, in the dead of night!”
And that’s exactly what Luke Alexander, Dan Byatt, Ben Hamilton, Kelsey Moss and Duncan Sandie, overcoming consequential handicaps, remarkably did – 90 kilometres, without sleep, over almost 30 hours.
“It was amazing,” said Ash, in awe. “They kept telling me that whenever one of them was struggling, they kept reminding themselves what the purpose was for.
“It was a huge mental battle for them. For me to be the motivation behind that meant a lot.”
The debilitated quintet were greeted near Central Coast Stadium by Ash, Newcastle Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna and a posse of the club’s fans, before they all headed to the game.
“I must thank the Mariners – even though I was a rival fan, they were extremely generous and hospitable. All their staff were fantastic.
“I got to greet the Jets players as they were walking out on to the pitch, which was fantastic. I had a fair bit of interaction with the boys I’ve played with at youth level – Jason Hoffman, Ben Kantarovski – but also Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Nigel Boogaard. They sent some nice Instagram messages.
“And [former Socceroo] Joel Griffiths was also great alongside Lawrie. Lawrie – oh, man (gasps) – I can’t speak highly enough of the bloke. He was personally wheeling me around, doing everything to make sure I was right. He was carrying around the donation buckets. How many CEOs would you see doing that? It would be below them to have to do that.
“He put us up to watch the game in a box. I sat next to the great Craig Johnston. I couldn’t believe it. I even told him I was a big Man United fan and he (a Liverpool legend) didn’t give me too much stick. Such a great bloke. He was fixing me up food. Craig and Lawrie were both extremely humble.”
Football is helping Ash get through his ordeal.
“I’ve been football-obsessed since I was five,” he said. Ever since mum got me my first [David] Beckham jersey. I’d say it’s my religion.
“It sucks not to be able to play, but I’m lucky to have a former team that is looking to keep me on as part of the coaching side of things and helping out in the sheds etcetera. And watching hours and hours of football has helped keep me going through my treatment."
Ash, who recently separated from his fiancee, is exceptionally grateful to his mother for more than just that Beckham No7 shirt.
“My mum’s moved in with me," he said. "Hopefully in the New Year I’ll be able to get by independently and return to work. To be able to purchase a modified vehicle and get myself around independently again, I can’t explain how much that would mean to me. I'm also extremely grateful to my dad and stepmum for purchasing the property I'm renting."
The walk raised thousands of pounds for the 31-year-old’s treatment, but he’s still considerably shy of his target on GoFundMe, #MoveMountainsforAsh. Luke and pals are considering another fund-raiser at the next F3 Derby in February.
As the Jets and the Mariners collaborating and a Manchester United diehard being entertained by a Liverpool legend proved, when it comes to worthy causes, rivalries are worth leaving for the field.