A VETERAN rugby player whose heart stopped beating for nine minutes after he collapsed on the pitch is set to lead his team in a match against touring Aussies today.

Terry Lofthouse said it was thanks to his quick-thinking team-mates that he survived the heart attack a year ago, allowing him to go on and see his first grandson be born three months later.

The scare has not stopped him donning his boots again, and today he will captain the York & District Masters representative side which will take on the Australia Masters at Hull KR’s Craven Park ground.

Terry, 59, played rugby league for the old Southlands club in South Bank until he was in his early 30s. He was persuaded to return to the sport last year, joining the York Lokomotive Masters team for older players. But 20 minutes into his first match on March 12, 2017, he suffered a heart attack.

Terry, from Acomb, said: “I had been playing okay. I got tackled but I got back up and then just fell forwards.

“Luckily the organiser’s son, Lee Slater, was watching and realised something was wrong so he rushed on to the pitch. Without him and the other lads who did CPR I just wouldn’t be here.”

Terry’s life was saved by a defibrillator. He was then rushed to hospital where surgeons put two stents in his heart to unblock the artery and he spent 24 hours in an induced coma before spending another seven days in hospital.

He said the road to recovery was tough but he set himself the goal of getting back on the pitch less than a year after he fell ill.

He said: “You are in denial, you think it can’t have happened to me, your emotions are up and down. I wanted to play rugby again but I never thought I would manage it.

“But Masters rugby league (for players aged 35 upwards) is like a family, my team-mates didn’t let me feel sorry for myself. They said I had my own flying taxi - the air ambulance - and they began calling me the cardio kid.”

Just three months later, grandfather-of-three Terry stepped back on the pitch alongside the other Lokos seniors.

He said: “My two sons Jason and Daniel were okay with me going back to rugby but my wife was a bit dubious. But she knows if I put my mind to something I will do it.”

Now he is urging others to learn CPR and said: “You don’t realise it could happen to you. I class myself as reasonably fit, I don’t drink or smoke, I exercise regularly, I get my cholesterol tested every year. I did everything the doctors told me to and then this happened.

“The consultant told me the heart attack would have happened one way or another, but because it happened when the support was around, that’s what saved me. My first grandson was born nine months ago. Now I will have the chance to see him grow up.”

On captaining the York Masters against Australia, he added: “It’s a big responsibility which I am proud to take on. I will do my best and I know the others will too.”