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Adam Thomson opens up on journey from Japanese hospital bed to Chiefs Super Rugby squad

By Online Editors
New Chiefs signing Adam Thomson. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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By Christopher Reive, NZ Herald

When Adam Thomson was struck down by a spinal infection in late 2017, he had no guarantee that his life would ever go back to how it was.

The former All Blacks loose forward was admitted to hospital in December of 2017, during his stint playing for the Canon Eagles in Japan, after experiencing excruciating pain that left him unable to walk.

His ailment initially had doctors stumped, before he was eventually diagnosed with lumbar discitis – an infection in the intervertebral disc space.

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Thomson spent 57 days in hospital, mostly bed ridden, and had to learn how to walk again. Speaking to Newstalk ZB‘s Martin Devlin, Thomson said it was the biggest challenge he had ever faced.

“It was hugely scary. There were some pretty dark moments. In my life I’ve had a pretty cruisy run in terms of major obstacles, injuries and what not, so for me that was the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced,” Thomson said.

“I was on my back for six weeks, couldn’t get out of bed and had to teach myself to walk again going through major bouts of pain.

“Things came up life quality of life and will you even be able to live a normal kind of life again…that’s the level it was at, it was never really can you go back and be a professional rugby player again. There were some really dark times and I had to ask myself some pretty big questions. I made that decision pretty early on that I was going to get over it and get back to it.

“It was step by step…I just had to keep moving and work really, really hard.”

Thomson returned to rugby last year when he signed with the Utah Warriors in Major League Rugby, however he did not feature in a game for the club. His return to playing came back on home soil at club level for Takapuna, before suiting up for Otago in the Mitre 10 Cup last year.

Now, the 37-year-old has been added to the Chiefs Super Rugby squad as an injury replacement player to help provide cover in the pack.

“It’s quite the journey to think back on it now, even seeing some of the footage of the shape I was in in hospital and now getting a crack at club rugby, Mitre 10 (Cup) and now Super Rugby, it’s pretty unreal.

“I never thought I’d be back playing Super Rugby, to be honest. Rugby was there in the back of my mind, it never went away. To me, that was never going to be the end of my journey even with doctors’ recommendations and that. I’m a pretty stoic sort of guy and I wanted to go out on my own terms. Right from day one it was about getting over that hurdle, getting myself back on my feet and getting back onto the field.

“To me that was probably club rugby, at a push maybe get back to something a little bit higher. But to get back into a Super Rugby jersey, especially a team as amazing as the Chiefs, it’s a dream come true.

“I’ve got a lot of gratitude for where I am and I’ve got that love and passion for the game again. You tend to lose that when you play season after season and it kind of grinds on. For me that was a huge wake up call.

“To have that passion and burning desire to get back into footy for the love of it again is something I don’t take for granted.”

This article first appeared on and was republished with permission.

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Adam Thomson opens up on journey from Japanese hospital bed to Chiefs Super Rugby squad