I want my old life back
WHEN an iron bar fractured Jesse Hardy's skull in a wild carpark brawl the near-fatal blow also smashed his rugby league dreams.
The Gracemere 18-year-old may never remember the vicious fight which involved up to 70 people wielding shovels, poles, bottles and machetes outside a Brisbane fast-food restaurant.
Nor may the once promising footballer ever remember the metal bar that was thrown at his head, taking with it a chunk of his brain.
But he will always have many permanent, unhealable reminders of the night in May 2004 that robbed him of his dreams.
"I just want to be like me again. The old person,'' he said.
Speaking with Jesse from his disability-modified house, he said without hesitation the thing he missed most about the "old Jesse'' was football.
Jesse had played football since he was young and had joined the Wynnum Manly club after moving from Biloela to Brisbane to look for work and be with friends just a few months before the attack.
"I want to play footy,'' he said.
"But the doctors say I'm not allowed to because I've got this metal plate (in my head).''
Jesse's parents, Donny and Linda, smiled bravely as they spoke of their son's football and horse-training skills.
"If he was on the field, they would always win,'' said Donny.
"He had a future, young Jess.
"He was playing for Wynnum and they always had scouts around. Who knows? He could have been lining up for the A grade by now.''
Linda said after the fight, things went from bad to worse for Jesse.
His right lung collapsed after the blow and then his head wound and lung contracted golden staph.
He went from a fit and healthy 96kg to 46kg while in intensive care.
Jesse's entire right side was paralysed when the bar struck the left side of his head, fracturing his skull and sending him into a three-week coma which saw him hospitalised for five months.
He lost part of his eyesight, now has to walk with a splint, cannot feel the right side of his body and has permanent brain damage with no prospect of recovery.
Linda has now taken on the role of being Jesse's full-time carer.
She said Jesse had lost all but one of his friends and now spends most of his time in his room listening to music ? his favourites being hip hop artists Nelly and 50 Cent.
But despite everything that's happened to Jesse, he still wears a smile.
"I'm all right. I'm coping.''
He has now taken up a new sport, bocce, which he plans to contest at the Sporting Wheelies' State Championships in Brisbane next month.
Looking back, Jesse admits while he never wants to remember the fight that cost him so much, he does have some clear advice for others: "If you go to parties don't drink lots.
"If someone starts a fight, just go away or go home,'' Jesse said.
Jesse's attacker, Duane Price, 19, was sentenced to five years' jail with no parole in the Brisbane District Court in February for the grievous bodily harm of Jesse and another man.