An incredible story has emerged from the aftermath of Penrith’s groundbreaking win over the Western Sydney Two Blues in the Shute Shield last weekend.
While celebrations at Holroyd Sports Ground could be heard from as far as away as Cranebrook after Penrith’s first win in seven years, post-match festivities had to be toned down slightly after new Western Sydney recruit John Akau’ola-Laula had a frightening medical episode at full-time.
“John, who had an underlying medical condition, copped a head knock towards the end of the game. He walked off the field but went into shock on the sideline after the match,” said Penrith Emus President, Gary McColl.
“A couple of ambulances came and then a helicopter arrived, and he was air lifted to hospital.”
He is currently in a serious but stable condition.
“To the great credit of our captain Andy Fiagatusa, he stayed with John for half the night at the hospital until his parents arrived. The pair had no previous relationship, so it was a highly commendable act from our skipper,” McColl said.
Meantime McColl has spoken of the club’s elation following their drought-breaking win last Saturday.
When the Emus last tasted victory back in 2014, Australia’s Prime Minister was Tony Abbott and Barrack Obama was midway through his second term as US President.
The battling Emus have also had five different coaches in the 2,471 days since their last ‘W’, making Saturday’s 11-7 victory over rivals the Western Sydney Two Blues even more remarkable.
“It felt like we had won the World Cup… the monkey was finally off our back,” McColl said.
“We put a lot of effort it, recruited some players and it finally came to fruition. Everyone was very, very excited.”
When news of Penrith’s win broke late Saturday afternoon, the entire city was bursting with joy, with both the Weekender’s Facebook page and the Emus’ official website enjoying a huge spike in traffic.
“Our website went into meltdown on Saturday night,” McColl revealed.
“Coach John Muggleton had a bit of a tear in his eye and I was very happy for them also. Even though I played for the club in the 1970s, I’m not a rusted-on Penrith Emu like some others here at the club are. For people like former President Jim Hook, I feel really happy for those guys.”
Penrith led 5-0 at half-time before the Two Blues hit the front 7-5 early in the second half. However, it didn’t take long before the Emus regained the lead following back to back penalty goals.
With history well and truly on the line, the Emus managed to hold on until the final siren and notch up one of the greatest moments in the club’s existence.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.