Teen reflects on recovery one year since near-fatal crash
THE Robertson family faced a future without their son and brother Jesse last year.
On May 27, 2016, Jesse was injured when the car he was driving rolled on the Maryborough-Biggenden Rd at Oakhurst. He was left with massive internal injuries and was placed in an induced coma during his initial recovery.
"It was my worst nightmare," his dad Scott Robertson said. "Having a kid in the ICU (intensive care unit), you can't describe (how it feels)."
Jesse was revived three times from the time of the crash to his arrival at Royal Brisbane Hospital. It was feared he would not recover.
A year on from the horrific crash, Jesse has not only recovered, but earned a place in Bundaberg Rugby League's Under-20s rep team for next month's 47th Battalion Carnival.
"At the start they didn't think I'd make it," Jesse said on Saturday.
Jesse was in the intensive care unit at RBH, but he "got out pretty quick". Initial estimates suggested his recovery would take months, but the teenager smashed that challenge. It took little more than a month.
Within six weeks he was back with his mates at his beloved Wallaroos
His arm in a sling, the club's Under-18s captain was full of positivity as he sat on the bench to watch his side earn a 26-all draw with Bundaberg's Past Brothers.
Wallaroos, of which Scott is president, had previously shown their love and respect for Jesse in the days after the crash.
Players in all three grades wrote "ROBBO" on the strapping tape of their arms, and all three fought hard to earn victory.
A-grade coach Peter Waters, who first coached Robertson in the Under-6s, said it hit the side hard.
"I couldn't even give the pre-game speech, I was a blubbering mess. Ben (Waters) had to take over for me," Waters said.
"They're a pretty close-knit group. A lot of them have played together since Under-7s.
"They've learned a lot from him since then."
The image from that weekend was a huge moment for Jesse.
"That was massive for me and it made it more emotional," Jesse said.
"I had so much support from my family, the club was great through it, and the medical staff... I can't thank them enough."
The 19-year-old is nowhere near fully recovered.
While he has minimal memory of the incident, an injured elbow, nerve damage in his right arm, lost muscle mass and deafness in his right ear are ever-lasting reminders of the night that changed his life forever.
In classic Jesse Robertson fashion, he stared down the challenge, smashed whichever hurdle appeared, and fought his way back.
He still has a long way to go - he openly admits he is working hard to put his life back together.
He works at Robertson's Fabrications as an apprentice boilermaker, and returned to the footy field for the club's 28-all draw with Isis Devils on April 9.
He has played in Waters' A-grade side in all six games since, a combination of bench and starting at prop.
Jesse credits Waters for his quick return to the top grade but the teen's form makes him impossible for the coach to overlook.
And it is that form that caught the eye of the BRL's selectors, despite the deafness he said can make things difficult in the middle of the park.
Jesse already had the goal of making an U20s rep squad, but that was on his list of things to do in 2018.
"(The deafness) was pretty hard to accept but, at the time, it wasn't the worst of the injuries," he said.
"They weren't overly worried about it at the start. On the field I can find it hard but you just deal with it."
That's exactly what he has done, according to Scott, who has watched the "old Jesse" slowly return to Eskdale Park.
"He's learning to adapt. His biggest problem may be in defence when the boys are lifting and there's a lot of noise," Scott said.
"He's gaining confidence with his body and hearing and learning a bit more of the technique. He's changed a lot on the field but the old Jesse will be back soon."
Off the field, today's Jesse Robertson is no different to the Jesse Robertson from before May 27, 2016.
"He still loves a beer with the boys," Scott joked.
"He's back to work and everything.
"It brought a tear to my eye to see him picked in the rep squad. It was a goal for next year but I knew he was in the mix."
Waters went one step further, comparing the young forward to Queensland Origin legend Artie Beetson.
"For the next 10 to 15 years he will be the heart and soul of this forward pack, and the club," Waters said.
"Over the next few years you'll see an Artie-like ball-playing forward."