Full race day at Newcastle Racecourse to raise funds for Port Stephens footballer Riley Coburn-Hall

FIGHTER: Riley Coburn-Hall, 14, from Lemon Tree Passage. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
FIGHTER: Riley Coburn-Hall, 14, from Lemon Tree Passage. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

A thoroughbred race meeting will be staged in Newcastle in June to support a Lemon Tree Passage teen who was injured in a junior rugby league game last year.

Riley Coburn-Hall, 14, dissected an artery during a junior league game in August 2017, which caused a stroke that shut down the left side of his brain.

To help Riley on his long road to recovery, Jim Hall from charity foundation The Sporting Hope Association and Brian Judd, a director of the Newcastle Jockey Club, founded an eight race, fund-raising event that draws on support from businesses and the community.

Money raised through the event, called Racing for Riley, will be donated to the family. Racing for Riley will be held on Saturday, June 30.

Riley’s mother, Kathleen Coburn, said she had been overwhelmed with the support.

“Everything will go towards Riley’s recovery,” Ms Coburn said. “We’re working on getting the right balance of treatment and therapy and finding the right people to help him.

“The right people will get the most out of Riley and help with his recovery. Because he’s so young he has a better chance at recovery if we put in the work now.”

Riley was a full-back for Mallabula Panthers Junior Rugby League. Dean Gordon, Riley’s coach last year, said there appeared to be nothing unusual or illegal in any of the tackles he was part of during the game.

“He continued playing but collapsed after the game and was rushed to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital,” Mr Gordon said. “It was just a freak accident; we don’t even know which tackle caused the injury.”

Riley was flown to Royal Prince Alfred hospital then transferred to the Prince of Wales Children’s hospital. Since the incident, he has undergone four operations. An implant covers the left side of his brain.

Riley now faces two years of rehabilitation and physiotherapy to help him get back to school full-time. Ms Coburn said Riley returned his school, Hunter River High, for one day recently.

“He just needs more time,” she said. “We will see if he is well enough to make it back next term.”

NJC chief Matt Benson said all were welcome to attend Racing for Riley, which would also see the launch of the inaugural Port Stephens Cup.

“The NJC has a rich history of getting behind community fund-raising events and we are thrilled to be able to help Riley by dedicating this day,” he said.

“We expect to have some great racing on the day, on course entertainment and some well-known sporting identities in attendance.

“We hope the Port Stephens Cup will become a yearly fixture on the NJC racing calendar.”

In addition to Sporting Hope and NJC, Riley has been supported by Hunter River High School, the junior Panthers club and Port Stephens Men of League.

Sporting Hope is aiming to raise funds through other activities on the day to purchase a car for Riley and Ms Coburn. To sponsor one of the races on the day, contact NJC.