Hayward sees the positives in walk down memory lane
At some point on Sunday when Devonshire Cougars visit Wellington Oval for a Premier Division showdown, St George’s coach Jarreau Hayward is bound to cast his mind back to the day when a tackle from a Cougars player ended his career.
The date was January 20, 2019, in the sixth minute of an FA Cup first-round tie at Wellington Oval, when Hayward suffered a broken leg in a tackle for a loose ball with Allan Douglas.
The match was held up for some 25 minutes while Hayward, then a player-coach, received treatment before the ambulance arrived. He was in the hospital hours later when he got a message that St George’s won the match on penalty kicks.
“I was likely knocked out by the time they got the victory, but when I woke up from surgery, the messages came in,” Hayward recalls.
He is still recovering from the injury, which required a rod and two bolts to be inserted in the leg, enjoying his first stint as a Premier Division coach after leading St George’s to promotion last season.
In 2018-19, St George’s were a First Division team that created the big upset in the first round with the victory over Premier Division opponents, although the injury overshadowed the result.
“Martin Wyer, the referee, recognised it was a bad injury and stopped play right away,” Hayward said. “He could have let play continue.
“People on the sideline said they heard the crack, so I’m sure he heard it, as he was right next to us. ‘Dougie’ and I joke about it to this day; that’s my boy and that’s his competitive nature. I have no animosity towards him whatsoever.”
Hayward added: “One of my friends told me that I was not going to walk off the field, but be carted off when I retire because I love the game so much, and that’s literally what happened.
“I doubt that I’ll return to this level of football, but maybe a Corona League or a Masters team could use me. I’m in the second phase of my rehab; the first part was making sure the bone was OK before I get the equipment out that’s still in my leg.
“I have a rod in the leg, a bolt at the top near my knee and a bolt at the bottom. The bone itself has healed; it’s just where the bolts are that’s bothering me.
“I should have had the surgery earlier this year, but Covid suspended all non-essential surgeries, so I’m going to look to whenever we have a two-week break in the schedule to try to get the surgery then, or maybe next summer. But definitely sooner rather than later, so that I can return to some normalcy.”
Hayward knew immediately the injury was serious, and found out just how much so when he arrived at the hospital.
“The leg was shattered. They had to piece it back together and put a rod down through the bone and bolted it at the top near my knee and the bottom near my ankle,” he explained.
“That took some adjusting and I’m kind of used to it now, though I don’t want to get too used to it. I at least want to return to some level of athleticism.”
Hayward, who had a brief stint as a national team player, found some positives during the difficult times.
“Breaking my leg has evolved my coaching knowledge exponentially,” he said. “Just being able to sit there, study games and read up on things.
“I had a lot of time for soul-searching, lying in my bed for those two months and doing a lot of studying — not just football but other things that I’m interested in. That’s why I look at it as a blessing in disguise.
“Even when I was lying on the pitch, I knew it was an evolution time in front of me. The first six weeks, I was in constant pain and didn’t want to get up because then the blood rushed to my leg and caused a throbbing pain.”
Hayward led St George’s to their first win of the season last weekend when they beat Southampton Rangers 1-0 despite being without their main two strikers, Lashun Dill and Clay Darrell, because of injuries suffered the previous weekend. Jahron Dickinson stepped up to score the team’s first goal of the season late in the game.
“I think not having Lashon and Clay on Sunday showed, not just to ourselves but the island, that we’re not the St George’s of decades ago,” Hayward said.
“It’s just small niggles. They are in physio right now and we’ll evaluate them later in the week to see if they are available for Sunday. We’re definitely not going to risk them, as it is a long season.”
He added: “It took a team effort. Jahron was massive, but so was everyone else. It’s not just Lashun and Clay who are injured; we probably have eight or nine players with injuries, some who are still eligible for a starting berth. We’re really proud of our depth.”
Defensively, the team have been solid in front of goalkeeper Freddie Hall, conceding just two goals in their first three games. “Those two goals were scrappy and goals we could have avoided,” he said of the 1-0 losses to North Village and Somerset Trojans.