My name is Chris Riddell I was born in Hastings and live there for the first 10 years of my life, playing junior rugby for three seasons. My family and I then moved from Hastings to Whakatane where I switched to playing soccer. I was educated at Whakatane Intermediate and Whakatane High School. Not been able to sit still and wanting to play sports all the time I left school at 16 to get a job working at Wrightson’s NMA. I worked there as a store man for a year or two before moving on to the Saw Mill for a year.
I also worked as a forecourt and lube man at the local petrol station. Where upon I moved down to Fielding and was running my uncles tavern for six months. I enjoyed working behind the bar and meeting lots of new people, and of course taste testing the products. Through working at the pub I made a bunch of new friends who where rugby players, and played for the Fielding Yellows. They talked me into joining so I switched from Soccer back to Rugby and trained for three months. I had just started working at the local freezing works when on March the 16th 1980, I broke my neck whilst playing a trials match, at Johnson’s Park in Fielding.
I took the ball from a drop out 25, turned to try and form a mall and as we all packed in, I was hit from behind and instead of falling sideways and lying down, I went forward into a forward roll position and I heard a crack, I was on the field for the last five minutes of the game and this was the last thing I remembered for about four months.
I was taken to Palmerston North Hospital where I stayed for a week, before been transferred to Middlemore Hospital for three weeks and then moved to the Otara Spinal Unit. I spent nine months in Ward A, the rehabilitation ward, and then moved to C block where I lived for 11 years. Whilst here I went back to school got my School Cert. and two university entrance subjects. After this time if felt confident enough now to move out on my own into the big wide world and have been living happily in Papakura for the last 20 years. I have a lovely three bedroom unit and am looked after by a bunch of great caregivers who are the loveliest ladies on earth.
I have got some great interests, such as, when an elderly gentleman came to visit at the Spinal unit he taught us how to play bridge, which I still play regularly at the Papakura bridge club. It is one of the most pleasing games anyone can ever play. I urge everyone to give this a go as it keeps your brain active and you meet some very nice and interesting people. I also have a great interest in harness racing. I enjoy going to the trots at Alexander Park, after a friend took me along for the show one night. I enjoyed this so much that I joined the Auckland trotting club syndicate, and low and behold have been lucky enough to have a terrific pacer, called Changeover. He has won the ultimate race for any harness racing owner, 'The New Zealand Trotting Cup’ in 2008 in Christchurch. I was lucky enough to be there to watch it happen. It was the most exciting thing you can imagine. I still enjoy watching the Rugby along with a lot of other sports as well.