Craig Mannagh back in charge

IT'S been 12 months since a shocking on-field head clash left Craig Mannagh fighting for his life. This Saturday he returns to the coaching box. He can't wait.

CRAIG Mannagh will make a miraculous return to the coach’s box at Bunton Park on Saturday.

Only 364 days after suffering a horrific head injury playing for Walla, the father of five will call the shots from the sidelines for North Albury’s reserves team against Wangaratta Rovers.

Mannagh is six months ahead of the predicted recovery rate from a brain trauma injury that had him fighting for his life in a hospital bed for two weeks in Melbourne.

“I can’t wait for Saturday,” he said yesterday.

“People ask why I’m doing it again and I just tell them it’s what I enjoy doing.

“I love coaching.

“I’ll have support nearby and it’s the best way to keep your brain active, which is important in my recovery.”

Mannagh was approached by several clubs to help with their development programs but the lure of coaching again and working with Brownlow medallist Jason Akermanis proved impossible to ignore.

He is also helping run coaching clinics for the AFL North East Border.

“I have been told I’m six months ahead of where they thought I would be so I can’t complain,” he said.

“At times I get frustrated when there are setbacks but I realise I have been lucky.

“I’m 18 months to two years from getting back to normal and at one stage it didn’t look like I would be in that position.

“It’s a slow process, but I’ll get there.

“It’s been terrific at North Albury.”

Mannagh’s family relived the nightmare when Albury footballer James McQuillan suffered a serious spinal injury playing against Yarrawonga at Albury Sportsground on Saturday.

McQuillan remains in a critical condition after he was flown to Melbourne’s Austin Hospital.

“I really feel for James and his family, but I know there is a lot of support there for him and he’s obviously a strong kid,” Mannagh said.

“My injury was different but I can imagine how tough it would be on the family.”

Mannagh said it was that support that helped him to fight back from a head clash against Murray Magpies last year to coaching on Saturday.

“You don’t get a chance to thank all the people, but I appreciate every one of them,” he said.

“From the trainers on the ground out there at Walla that day, to my wife Julie and the kids."

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