It was a wet and chilly Saturday and I was refereeing the local under 14 rugby match. The game was almost over, with only a few minutes until the full-time whistle, when one of the players collapsed.

He’d been accidentally kicked in the head during a ruck – it looked serious. He lay there in the mud, motionless, with his eyes rolled back in his head. His mouth guard was still in his mouth.

I blew the whistle to stop the game.

The injured player didn’t respond to my voice or to a tap on his shoulder. I pulled out his mouth guard to free his airway, but he continued to make gurgling, snoring-type noises.

There were plenty of supporters on the sideline so I recruited one of them to call an ambulance. Still unable to get a response from the boy, I rolled him on to his side and applied a chin lift to open his airway.

Immediately, his breathing improved and he began to regain consciousness. A parent offered up a jacket to keep the boy warm and dry until the ambulance arrived. It was drizzling – the kind of rain that wets you through – and despite breathing more clearly, the player was now lapsing in and out of consciousness.

I was pretty worried about his condition, but I knew the key was to be cool, calm and collected. I was surprised more people hadn’t stepped forward to help. Were they afraid? It really hammered home the importance of being trained in first aid and having the confidence to do something.

Soon, the ambulance arrived and we got the injured player loaded in the back and off to hospital.

A few weeks later his coach rang and expressed his gratitude for my actions. I refereed the player’s first game back after he had made a full recovery.

“Thanks, bro,” he said after the game, shaking my hand.

I’ve refereed many matches during my time, but this one sticks out. It’s an important reminder that first aid can be needed anytime and even the simplest actions can help save a life.

Red Cross’ first aid courses are practical and hands-on, giving Kiwis the skills to use when they need them most. With a range of courses on offer, you can find one to suit you. Book a Red Cross first aid course today.