A HEATHCOTE Saints footballer is fighting for his life in a Queensland hospital after overdosing on a powerful synthetic drug while on an end-of-season trip.
Riki Stephens, 27, was admitted to the Gold Coast University Hospital over the weekend after reportedly consuming the drug “flakka” and remains in a critical condition.
The full-forward, who was recruited from Diamond Creek and starred in his first season with the Saints, was one of about 20 Heathcote players on the trip.
Heathcote Football Netball Club president Andrew Conforti told the Bendigo Advertiser that he understood several players took the drug while out drinking.
“The repercussions have been devastating because Riki’s in a coma,” he said. “I don’t think it was the drug they were wanting to take and they’re paying a price for it now.
“They are part of our club, but the most important thing at the moment is Riki’s health.
“Our thoughts are with the family and Riki and hopefully he’ll pull through this because he’s not out of the woods yet.”
Flakka is a potent designer drug that has been linked to a number of overdoses on the Gold Coast over the weekend.
Its effects are known to cause to severe hallucinations, aggressive episodes and seizures in some instances.
The two other players who took the drug with Mr Stephens have made a full recovery.
Mr Conforti said the club had organised drug education sessions for its players in the past and would so again in light of the incident.
“These young people need to be aware of the circumstances that can happen,” he said.
“It’s very, very frustrating but unfortunately when you make a bad call you can pay for it.
“It’s a vicious world we live in now. It’s such a shame this has happened.”
Mr Conforti said the full-forward, who was recognised as the club’s most consistent player this season, was a popular figure who “fitted in beautifully”.
“Unfortunately he’s taken a drug, but he’s a fantastic fellow and well respected around the club,” he said.
“He’s been brought up well and is a good footballer as well. It’s just so unfortunate that this has happened.”
Mr Stephens’ Facebook page and other football-related sites have been flooded with messages of support from well-wishers.