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“Life goes on” for Zac after paralysing Motocross accident

Abbie Tiller

In April 2023, extreme sports junkie, Zac Watson, lay face-down in the dirt off the Finke Desert track, knowing he’d just been paralysed.

The 24-year-old gun footballer and motocross racer was pre-running just out of Alice Springs, training for a top 20 spot in his 3rd Fink Desert Race. Testing out where the “big whoops” were and familiarising himself with the track, he’d never been faster or felt more comfortable with the outback terrain.

Reaching speeds between 160 and 170 kilometres per hour, he and his team were confident of a high placing, after finishing in the top 48 riders the previous year, despite having a “shocking run”.

Recalling every moment of the freak accident that put him in a wheel chair, the Mount Gambier rider recalls the back end of his GasGas 450 “skipping out on a skatey area”, giving it a bit more throttle to straighten up, before being “spat off the side” and thrown about 40 metres, landing on his face with his legs flicking over top of him.

Asked if he wished he couldn’t remember those vivid details, a remarkably inspiring Zac, said “it actually helps me knowing what happened and that it was a freak accident and I did nothing wrong”.

Despite being “in the best spot it could’ve happened”, within ten kilometres of Alice Springs, it took half an hour for Zac to be found by passing riders, who were visibly distressed at what confronted them.

“I went to get up and I couldn’t. I touched my legs and I had no feeling, so I knew straight away,” he said. Somehow I got my helmet and CamelBak off but when I took my Kidney Belt off the pain just let go. I was freaking out and the pain was just burning.

“By the time the other riders found me laying there I had accepted that I was paralysed.”

As someone who loved to  “run the gauntlet”, Zac’s acceptance of life as a paraplegic, has been an inspiration for his grief-stricken family and friends.

He had multiple fractured vertebrae from T4 to T7, T9 to T11 and had shattered the T8 vertebrae, paralysing him from the sternum down.

“When I woke up out of surgery, they’d had to decompress the spine and insert metal rods which are in there for good,” he said.

“The doctors told me the news and I said, yeah I already know.”

From the very moment he knew he’d never walk again, Zac has been keen to “get on with life” – working hard to get through rehabilitation so he could get home to partner Brooke and continue to live life to the fullest.

“This doesn’t define me. I still want to travel, and I’ll never stop loving Motocross. It’s been a big part of me since I was 2 years old.”

Zac moved from Mount Gambier to Adelaide after winning a football scholarship at St Peters College. He played for his school and went through the ranks at SANFL clubs, Glenelg and North Adelaide. But footy, cricket and motorbikes weren’t the only sports he put his body on the line for – he’s also pushed himself to the limits with dinghy racing, downhill mountain biking and waterskiing.

And while life now has a slightly different perspective, his sporting days aren’t over. He’s already talking about taking up adaptive mountain biking.

“While I was in ICU a footballer from the Adelaide Hills was brought in and his life support had to be turned off. That was a changing day for me and my family.

“In rehab I just felt so bad for other people’s situations. I could still talk and move my arms and take myself to the toilet. And I had and still do have so much support. I didn’t realise how many people had been affected by my accident.

“The amount of support from the Mount Gambier community has been phenomenal. It’s such a country thing, it’s just in their nature.”

Aria Award winning country singer and former Mount Gambier legend, Kasey Chambers, played a gig at Jens Hotel in Mount Gambier in September, with all ticket sales and proceeds going to Zac, for equipment and medical expenses.

And his loyal mates have set up a GoFund Me page – if you would like to donate click here.







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