FROM the first day big Mose Masoe rumbled off the Saints bench, with voices chanting his name to the tune of The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army,  there has been a bond between the town and the man they dubbed the Smiling Assassin.

The Samoan test prop, who helped power Saints to a Grand Final success in his two-year-stint, remained popular even after departure.

And now the club, his former teammates and the fans are giving him the support he needs as he battles the career-ending and life-changing spinal injury.

Everyone in the 13-man code is behind Mose as this week’s full round of Super League games are dedicated to the popular packman – with fans urged to buy virtual tickets to the weekend's game.

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An innocuous looking tackle while playing a friendly for Hull KR against Wakefield resulted in two damaged vertebrae in his spine at the age of 30.

His C4/C5 incomplete spinal cord injury meant he was diagnosed tetraplegic – one of the worst forms of paralysis - which means he has partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso.

Despite that he remains positive and has set up a foundation to help provide for himself, initially, and then others in a similar position.

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Even with the adversity he is facing, you could still sense a big beaming smile down the other end of the telephone when he said: “I just have to keep moving forward, man.

“Last year was a tough year when it happened, but just the support I have had from the rugby league community as a whole has been awesome.

“It has given me that extra push to get up and do stuff.

“It is something that I am battling – that bit of fatigue. I came back a lot from the start but I am still missing little pieces. I am just grateful for what I have at the moment.”

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He explained how tough it has been, since that first moment in January when all kinds of thoughts will have gone through his head as he was carried off to hospital.

“The first few days were pretty tough, but I never had time by myself to dwell on it because I had my team-mates coming in every day to keep me company and had visitors,” he said.

“Plus, I had the support from the community, my teammates and players from other clubs. It was amazing.

“I just kept working and was thankful I was able to take a couple of steps…in my head I was back playing. I had to stay optimistic and be positive.

“There were tough days mentally, but I never let that get to me.

“Always in my head I kept thinking there’s other people out there doing it worse than me and I just have to get on with it.

“I am trying to keep pushing myself to get through the fatigue stage.

“It is 14 months since I had my injury. I have gained back as much as I can, so those things I am trying to strengthen and make the best that I can.

“I hope that all the other little things come back eventually but it is the unknown.

“It is like I am playing a new game and I don’t know the rules, and I have to make them up along the way.

“The doctors can only guide you a certain way – it is still unknown.”

He counts himself as being blessed to have the sporting world to call upon – and in no way feels resentful towards the game that has struck him down in such a cruel way.

“I am fortunate because I have the rugby league community and everyone in general has an awareness of my injury, but I have seen a lot of people in hospital that do not have the same support as I have.

“I feel guilty at times that I have got that, but I see it as my job to be a voice for them.

“It is tough for us spinal cord injury people – it is a totally different world when your arms and legs stop working,” he said.

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Initially he battled on quietly, not revealing the full effects of what this injury has done to him and the everyday functions we take for granted, that he can no longer do unaided.

However, that has changed.

Mose said: “When people see me walking, it was awesome that people were encouraging me. But it is a lot more than that physical side of stuff everything in my body has all changed.

“At first I kept a lot of stuff to myself and to the family and those close to me and they encouraged me to speak up and tell people how it really is.

“What really got me was my parents had not been able to come over from New Zealand, because of the Covid rules, and my mum asked me, ‘When are you going to be back playing?’

“It is not her fault because she hadn’t seen where I have been, but she just didn’t understand the severity of the injury.

“That really got me, and I think she only really got it a couple of months ago.”

There is obviously never a good time to pick up such a tough, life-changing, injury – but the timing of this one could not have been any worse.

Carissa, his partner of 10 years, was pregnant with their third child at the time and then weeks later Covid swept the world magnifying everyday difficulties 100 fold.

But Mose credits Carissa for being his absolute rock during every tentative step of the way on this toughest of journeys.

“My family has been the best,” he said.

“I don’t think I could have done it without my partner Carissa.

“She’s done it tougher than myself, with having to look after the kids by herself and being pregnant at the time and she was back and forth to the hospital.

“Then when in lockdown she has had to teach the kids, so the teacher, nurse and physio.

“She has been everything and I can’t thank her enough for what she is continually.

“The kids have had to adjust….my daughter asked, ‘Dad, when are you going to be normal again?’

“That hit home. I told her I was trying my hardest – they have seen me injured a lot in my career and I guess they think it is like when I recovered from a broken ankle, broken knee or damaged shoulder.

“They have been really good and are doing things that I wouldn’t normally be asking my kids to do.”

But tonight is a big night, the opener for the Mose Masoe round, and has had all of his checks ahead of being guest of honour.

And he says he is excited to see Hull KR, the club he is still contracted to, go head-to-head with one with a special place in his heart.

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There’s not one hint of regret about ever lacing up his boots and picking up a ball.

“We play this brutal sport but I have no regrets no regrets in my career,” he said.

“Me and my partner were talking about the response I was getting from players all over the world and she said it was my good karma for being nice to people.

“It is humbling to see the response.

“I have loved my time at all the clubs and loved it at St Helens and had a good time there.

“The town was rugby mad and would support you thick and thin.

“When we were going bad they were still there, the supporters were always supportive.

“We enjoyed our time there.”

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Mose is hoping to be able to see the teams after the game – and meet old friends where protocol allows.

And recalled a hospital visit from fellow 2014 champions Alex Walmsley and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook with a large dollop of black humour.

“I want to say thank you because those players have gone out of their way to support me and the family.

“It is all over social media at the moment – and it is quite humbling.

“When I was in hospital Big Al visited and said, ‘You had to out-do me! I broke my neck and you had to break your spinal cord.’ We had a good chuckle.

“The rugby league world has been massively supportive of myself and my family,” he said.

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