CHAMPIONS PLIGHT TO GET OFF THE CANVAS

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Rick Bannister suffered life changing injuries earlier this year, as you would expect Therry Penola and the Bannister family have rallied around him as Brenton Mann reports. 

By Brenton Mann

A shock fall and suddenly, your life changes forever.
A horse enthusiast from a very young age, on April 15th 2013 Rick Bannister was involved in a simple jumping lesson at a property in Kilmore when… disaster struck. 
His horse fell while attempting a jump, which caused Rick to fall head first into the ground. 
The impact left Rick with no feeling below his shoulders. 
He completed dislocated and fractured his C5 vertebrae. 
The horrific fall severely damaged his spinal cord and Rick is now a C5 quadriplegic. 
Rick is the older brother of ex-Essendon and Carlton footballer, and recently retired AFL field umpire Jordan Bannister and he is also the proud brother of recent Therry Penola premiership players Corey and Jarrod Bannister. Rick has a fair sporting resume of his own. 
Although a former amateur boxer, with an undefeated record and Victorian State Championship to his name, Rick’s first loves were football and horses. 
He owns a property in Kilmore with wife Emily, where the pair enjoyed nothing more than a leisurely ride after a long day’s work.
The tragedy that struck the Bannister family has become a public plight and Rick’s former football club Therry Penola OBFC are doing everything in their power to help the family in this emotional time.
Rick played a total of 233 games for Therry Penola over 21 seasons and their pledge to help the Bannisters has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Secretary Rodney Moran recalls the day Rick joined the club.
“Rick came down to the club as a 16 year old, played 19s, spent a number of years here…so I’ve known Rick for almost 20 years.”
The club plans to raise short term funds for when Rick gets out of rehab, but also with the knowledge that he will require 24 hour care for the rest of his life.
“Ideally we want funding for a special needs vehicle which he will require”, Mr Moran said.
The club along with his brother’s Jordan and Corey have organised a sportsmen’s night, Ricky Bannister Recover and Rebuild, on the 15th of November at Etihad Stadium and plan to raise $200,000.
“We have had all sorts of memorabilia donated so far”, Mr Moran said, as well as a 2013 Jeep Compass.
His plight has also been heard by members of the AFL community.
Former dual premiership player, and now football analyst and Fox Footy commentator David King is one of many that have come to Rick’s aid.
“I think the AFL industry is really tight, when something happens, we come together pretty quickly”, King said.
“When we all heard what happened to Rick and when we have some sort of association with Jordan we said, ‘look was there anything we could do, anyway we can help?’”.
King hosted a luncheon recently that helped raise $55,000 in support of Rick.
The amount of funding needed is still an unknown.
“Obviously he is never going to be cured”, Mr Moran said.
Unfortunately for Rick and his family he was not insured.
“I think that mentally and physically that he’s the sort of person that will have a crack at trying to get over it”, Mr Moran said, “He’s very self determined, always has been”.
The club aims to provide Rick with the means to explore any opportunity, including new technology in stem-cell research undertaken in the USA.
The community atmosphere that surrounds the football industry allows contacts and networks to be attained in a way not afforded to the general public.
The Bannisters’ fight is only in its infancy but with support from people and organisations, such as the Therry Penola OBFC then opportunities will hopefully come to the fore. 
Rick Bannister Rebuild and Recover will be held at Etihad Stadium on November 15. Some of the AFL’s biggest stars will come together for the Ricky Bannister Recover and Rebuild night.

The family has also set up a website rickybannister.com.au, which lists the upcoming fundraising events.
Read other stories on Rick:  John Ralph in the Herald Sun Jordan Bannister in the Back Page Lead