Super Rugby
Hika Elliot considers future after spinal fusion
ESPN Staff
December 10, 2013
Counties Manukau's Hika Elliot celebrates Ranfurly Shield victory with his daughter, Hawke's Bay v Counties Manukau, ITM Cup, Ranfurly Shield, McLean Park, Napier, September 7, 2013
Hika Elliot enjoyed a productive season with Counties Manukau in 2013 © Getty Images

Former All Blacks hooker Hika Elliot will sit out the Chiefs' Super Rugby title defence in 2014 and may quit rugby altogether after undergoing surgery to correct a long-standing neck injury.

Elliot, 27, aggravated the injury while playing for the Maori All Blacks against Canada in Toronto, where a bulged disc resulted in his co-ordination deteriorating throughout the game to the point where he could barely walk when replaced.

"It was quite scary for myself, my brain would say something and my legs wouldn't go," Elliot said on LiveSport in New Zealand. "It got worse and worse. It got to the stage where my legs weren't working. They said I was lucky to actually be walking."

Elliot had his spine fused in an operation last week, and he will see a specialist prior to Christmas. He has regained the feeling in his hands and legs after the surgery, but he is realistic about the potential danger of playing again.

"Given my position and given the injury, it's something I need to take a hard look at," Elliot said. "We're talking about people's lives and being able to walk. I don't want to play Russian roulette with that sort of thing."

Dave Rennie remains hopeful, however, that Elliot might be available for the second half of the season. The Chiefs coach is aware that his hooking resources now are painfully thin with Mahonri Schwalger recovering from clean-up surgery on a knee injury that limited his appearances this year. Rhys Marshall is the only fit hooker in the squad able to undertake pre-season training, and another 21-year-old, Bay of Plenty rake Nathan Harris, has been drafted to fill the gap in the meantime.

Rennie said he was not yet allowed to replace Elliot officially, and he was as keen as the hooker to learn how the player had responded to the operation.

"So far the news is pretty positive, the surgeon's happy and now it's just a bit of time," Rennie said. "There's probably no doubt we will lose him for part of a season and I guess once the specialists have a look we will see whether it's going to be longer than that. The key thing is we want him to get right, he's got to be confident with what's happened but by all accounts the surgery went well."

Elliot, who played four Tests from 2008 to 2012, has represented the Hurricanes and Chiefs in Super Rugby since 2007, and played seven seasons for Hawke's Bay before switching this year to play in to Counties Manukau's Ranfurly Shield-winning ITM Cup campaign.

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