On January 12, 2020, Mose Masoe was tackled in a pre-season friendly playing for Hull Kingston Rovers.
What looked like an innocuous tackle, turned out to be the cause of a career-ending spinal injury that changed his and his family’s life forever.
Masoe has been diagnosed as a tetraplegic, which means the partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso. It is one of the worst forms of paralysis.
The former forward can walk a few unaided steps, but any brief activity leaves him exhausted. He still has no sensation or dexterity in his hands. He can no longer feel the cold nor can he feel heat.
The story we all think we know, the one with the fairy-tale ending, the idea that life has almost returned to normal for Mose, is sadly just that – a fairytale.
I sat down with Mose and his partner of 10 years, Carissa Crews, who has become his full-time carer. They both agreed it was time to reveal the truth behind his smile in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports.
“I always try and keep that positive mindset, but in saying that, being positive is not being happy all the time,” Masoe said.
Tony Smith, Masoe’s coach at Rovers and one of his biggest supporters, was the main instigator in encouraging his former player to speak up and share his truth.
“He (Smith) has been rock solid since the beginning,” Masoe said. “I can’t thank him enough.
“He pretty much said, ‘people need to know’. It got me thinking about other spinal patients. I’ve been quite positive with my posts, I’m able to walk and do all these things, but we all struggle with the same things.
“Bowel, bladder, spasms, fatigue. I’m in the same boat as all of them. Tony said that I’ve got to do it for them. I need to be more truthful and honest.”
For the first time since the accident, Masoe revealed he is living with severe bladder and bowel issues.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail, but Carissa, pretty much has to manually do my bowel care for me,” Masoe said.
Carissa, the mother of their three young children, Evie Rose, Marlowe and Lui, admitted to feeling overwhelmed by the process, saying: “I don’t know what I’m doing.
“Sometimes we haven’t been able to go to physio and other things because if we can’t sort the bowel care in the morning, it’s too much of a risk.”
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It is a risk that, unfortunately, his three young children have witnessed first-hand.
“That was hard to take,” Masoe said. “To try and explain that to your kids is quite hard.”
Carissa added: “Mose’s their dad and it’s hard for them to process it, their little minds, I don’t ever know how they are going to take it.
“During the nights, because I can’t empty my bladder properly during the day, I have a bucket, I have catheters, and I’ll do four to five catheters through the night,” the 31-year old revealed.
“Doing the catheters for myself is allowing my bladder to empty and hopefully it doesn’t push the stuff back up into my kidneys and I get kidney failure.”
Rugby League Cares and the Benevolent Fund have been a huge help to the former Samoa international. His club, Hull KR, have stood by their co-captain, paying his salary to the end of his contract, which expires in November, with his visa.
But what happens next?
“That’s the biggest thing, that I’ve been working hard to try and get better, because I’ve always been the provider,” Masoe said.
“To go and look for a full-time job after this year is quite daunting, because of the things I have to deal with. The bladder, the bowels, and the fatigue.”
Masoe’s internal issues are not their only battles. The insurance process and the uncertainty surrounding their claim has caused significant strain.
“Insurance is not looking like it’s going (to happen),” Masoe said. “We got the answer back and we were quite shocked at the amount insurance will cover. It’s not going to be enough.
“We’re not sure if Mose has fallen through some sort of loophole in the game. It’s the insurer that we are dealing with that the RFL use,” Carissa added.
“It’s being worked on. Neil (Hudgell, Hull KR owner) was right in there batting for us to try and get a better pay-out.
“He pretty much said to us that ‘it wasn’t going to be what you think it’s going to be,’ the top insurance in the game. There is a lot of fine print, a lot of little things.”
The RFL provides mandatory cover for their players. ‘Permanent total disablement from gainful employment from any and every kind’ or ‘permanent total disablement from any gainful occupation for which they are fitted by way of training, education or experience’ follows a pay-out of £250,000.
However, it seems unlikely Mose will receive this amount. In response, the RFL stated talks between their insurers and the club are ongoing.
“Conversations with Hull KR and the RFL’s insurers continue, and it would be premature to speculate on the outcome,” an RFL statement said
“Mose and his family have been inspirational in their response to such a devastating injury. The RL Benevolent Fund continue to work closely with them, and will also work with the Mose Masoe Foundation as part of that ongoing support.”
But in true Mose Masoe style, the 2014 Super League Grand Final winner wants to use his shortcomings to educate others.
“I want teams and players, the whole league to understand what the insurance is,” Masoe said. “As a player I didn’t. You go to work; you play the game. I never thought about this injury ever happening to myself.
“I think the league need to prepare players, tell them what’s happening. Hopefully a lot of players are listening out there. Just ask the question, because I didn’t. I just thought it was like going to work, you get workers comp, but it’s not going to be that way.
“I can dwell on it, or I can move forward and help other people, by getting the word out there for other players.”
While Mose insisted he had no regrets, his partner and mother of three could not say the same.
“Sometimes I wished I told him not to go and play that particular game, but as a whole I would say, that we’ve gained a lot from rugby league as a family,” Carissa said.
“We definitely wouldn’t have the support that we have right now if it weren’t for rugby league. It’s taken a lot, but it’s given us a lot to.”
Hull KR and some of Masoe’s closest friends have come together to launch The Mose Masoe Foundation. It is a charity aimed at raising funds to help relieve the financial and mental hardship of players who suffer spinal injuries, with Mose being the first beneficiary.
“If there is anything that I’ve learned over the last year, it’s not to stress about things that I can’t control,” Carissa reflected.
At that moment, Mose looked at his partner with his famous smile and said: “We’ll be alright.”
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