Something to 'Bragg' about

When Daniel Bragg made his Gold Coast debut, he literally took a piece of his dad with him – his kidney.

Most kids who make it in professional football will tell you of the effort their parents put in to give them a football career. For Gold Coast United-s Daniel Bragg, that line takes on a whole new meaning.

When Daniel ran out for his debut start with Gold Coast on the weekend, he literally took a piece of his dad with him - his kidney.

A promising youth career for the Blacktown boy was cut short in 2008 when he was diagnosed with acute renal failure.

After captaining the 2002 NSW Junior Elite Squad, the Oceania Squad and jumping straight from under 12-s to the first grade side at Blacktown, Bragg saw his dreams, along with his health, start to slip away.

Tests showed his Creatinine levels at close to five times the norm and the resulting drowsiness and inability to keep food and drink down, sapped his energy. Bragg became the proverbial guinea pig, as cycles of experimental medicines followed in a bid to correct his failing kidney.

The treatments caused the problem to escalate and his weight ballooned, as more than 15 kilograms of fluid collected in his body, giving him what he describes as ‘ the appearance of a pregnant man”.

Being put on a drip successfully helped his body combat the fluid retention but left the young teenager just “skin and bones”, and with Creatinine levels peaking at about the 1500 mark (normal blood level is about 50-100), doctors stepped in and told Bragg his playing days were over.

His final match was to be for his state league side, and in a bittersweet afternoon for the family watching on, Bragg slotted in two goals then checked into hospital and promptly fell asleep through sheer exhaustion.

A biopsy revealed a transplant was the only answer. As Bragg recalls, it was the start of a whole new chapter. “I had a catheter inserted for short term dialysis, which meant I couldn-t even take a proper shower or go swimming.

If water got into the catheter it could mean infection and I couldn-t run for risk of the catheter being pulled out, it was a pretty difficult, frustrating time”.

Support on the sidelines was nothing compared to the unanimous decision his family made when the search for a suitable kidney donor began. Every member of the Bragg family put up their hand and it was mum that proved the perfect match.

Too perfect, as it turned out. “Mum-s kidney was rated a 4 out of 6 which is considered a perfect match, but the doctors were concerned that my body would recognise it as my own and start to attack it."

In the end it was dad, Matthew, that stepped up to the plate and September 18, 2008 saw both Daniel his father preparing for the match of their lives.

Despite the medics prediction that competitive football was a thing of the past, Daniel still felt his dream was not over.

“I went for a walk one day and near my house is a bit of a hill, I looked at it and just thought, why not? So I jogged up it and went for it. I knew straight away that I could do this”.

Long overdue for a stroke of luck, Daniel was a senior at Westfield Sports High, (whose alumni are well known throughout the football world with names like Kewell, Emerton and Culina among their ranks) when students were asked to volunteer so that a group of coaches undergoing their A-licence could perform drills with them. Bragg-s hand went straight up.

One of the coaches on that course was Miron Bleiberg, who says “I saw Daniel train for the whole week and each day I saw better and better things, so I decided to bring him to the Gold Coast”.

When Bragg got the call from the club, he thought it was a friend playing a joke, and took some convincing that the moment every player waits for, had just arrived.

His debut for the senior team almost had a fairytale quality, with just Eugene Galekovic between him and a first professional goal.

It had been more than 12 years since Daniel Bragg sat down with his dad, watched Paul Scholes and David Beckham play for Manchester United and uttered those fateful words “I want to do that”.

And Matthew Bragg was the first person Daniel called after his game on the weekend.

“He said he-d been glued to the television for every minute - he knows the blood, sweat and tears that went into this - he was on Cloud Nine”.

Today, the only reminder of those turbulent times with his health is the 10 tablets a day he needs to take as an ongoing precaution, but Bragg says it-s no longer something he dwells on.

When asked about being in the same unique group as Bolton Wanderer-s Ivan Klasnic, (who became the first kidney transplant recipient to play in a major tournament when he ran out for Croatia in Euro 2008) he waves it away.

“I don-t want to be the Cinderella story, or the kid that came back. I just want to be Daniel.”

And why not? Being Daniel is working out just fine.