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Eye gouge victim: I'm a health and safety hazard

PUBLISHED: 15:24 05 May 2010 | UPDATED: 11:40 23 August 2010

HORRIFIC: Clarence Harding has been left blind in one eye.

HORRIFIC: Clarence Harding has been left blind in one eye.

A RUGBY player who was blinded after his eye was gouged during a game is considering quitting his job. Clarence Harding, 26, lost his sight in one eye after suffering an injury playing for Gravesend Rugby Football Club in a cup match against Maidstone RF

A RUGBY player who was blinded after his eye was gouged during a game is considering quitting his job.

Clarence Harding, 26, lost his sight in one eye after suffering an injury playing for Gravesend Rugby Football Club in a cup match against Maidstone RFC in January.

Despite an ongoing police inquiry no action has been taken and the player has since called for life bans to be introduced.

Now Mr Harding, who works as a rigger setting up stages with scaffolding for corporate events, fears he has become a health and safety risk.

He said: "There is no suggestion that my company want me to leave, in fact they have been very understanding and helpful but I am concerned I am a health and safety risk.

"My job is to help build the set but my disability makes me very slow and needing constant visual awareness can be a problem. It's a struggle. It has got to the stage where I will have to start looking for another job.

"Ideally I would love to take up a teaching or coaching role."

Since his injury Mr Harding has backed calls for a lifetime ban for plays found guilty of deliberate eye gouging.

Several incidents at all levels of the sport have now prompted the Rugby Football Union to look in to tougher punishments to deter the menace.

Jeff Blackett, the organisation's chief disciplinary officer, said: "You have to ask the question as to whether our sanctions are working and if not, ought we to make them even longer.

''It's a great worry to us and we intend to get it right. Every player at whatever level of the game has to be fully aware of the consequences of his actions."

Despite his injury, which he claims was deliberate, the former No 8 says he has watched his team mates play every weekend.

He added: "I have watched every minute of every game since my injury but it tore me apart not to be out there playing with them. It's difficult to stand on the sidelines but I will do it to support my team.

"But putting the rugby aside, my personal life is not suffering, it is fine. I find that I am pushing myself harder to achieve things."

Both Kent Police and the opposition team Maidstone RFC launched an investigation after the incident.

michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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