Garren Edwards knows how to fight and he knows how not to give up. But the past two years have left him depressed, trapped and sacrificing a social life once more.
Fifteen years ago, when he was 16, Mr Edwards was headed for Rugby League stardom when an afternoon mucking about in a swimming pool ended in disaster.
“When I first heard the doctors say that it’s a spinal injury and, you know, you’ll be confined to a wheelchair it hit me. I had sacrificed so much to get where I was, like sacrificed going out and things like that for sport,” he said.
With any dreams of an NRL career shattered, the teenager had to fight to find the will to rebuild his life as a wheelchair-bound “incomplete quadriplegic”.
But for the past two years sacrificing going out has again been something the 31-year-old from Nambucca Heads has had to endure after a spat with the seaside town’s only taxi firm over a small bill and some bad language ended in a life ban.
Now his mother, Colleen Edwards is calling for action, saying a life ban on her son is ridiculous. She says Nambucca should have another wheelchair-accessible vehicle option for her son.
“I think it’s disgusting that they won’t cater to my son’s needs, and it is a need,” she said. “It’s not a want, it’s a need.”
At the heart of the dispute is an incident with Mr Edwards’ former friend, Nambucca Taxi owner Jon Daley, over two small fares, a cleaning bill, and an altercation after a night out at the local club left Mr Edward’s friends pushing him three kilometres home because his wheelchair battery had gone flat after being refused service.
Mr Edwards says the fares, totalling around $16 to $20, and the cleaning bill have been paid. His mother says she witnessed one of the fare payments and her son’s friends covered the cleaning bill.
But Mr Daley disputes this, saying the bill is outstanding, although he will not elaborate, saying he “couldn’t discuss any clients with any members of the public” when approached by NITV for an interview.
As for the abuse, Mr Edwards does not dispute he lost control after waiting more than an hour at the head of the taxi queue at his local club, then being refused a ride.
He is not prepared to apologise and Mr Daley, who operates the town’s only two wheelchair accessible vehicles - appears unwilling to lift his life ban.
“I can’t see why Garren needs to keep suffering,” said Mrs Edwards.