Fintan's story: Reaping the benefits of a ‘Recovery at Work’ Plan

Te kōrero a Fintan: Ngā hua o te mahere o 'Recovery at Work'

After a painful ACL injury, apprentice greenkeeper Fintan was unsure when he'd return to his duties at the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club. Desperate to get back on the mower, he worked with his employer and ACC to find a way back to his happy place.

Fintan Cooper is sitting on top of a ride-on lawnmower with a big smile on his face.  

The Apprentice Greenkeeper at the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club has overcome plenty of adversity to get back here. Back on the tools. Back with his mates.  He wants to savour this moment.  

“That first day back was wicked,” says the 21-year-old.   

“I was just so happy. I mowed fairways all day. It put no pressure on my knee at all and it felt so good to be back on the golf course. To be back around the boys and doing a job that I love.”  

It’s been seven months since Fintan ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) playing football.  

In that time, he’s had surgery and learnt how to walk again. He has completed countless hours of physiotherapy, gym and pool sessions. He's had occupational therapy guidance. 

At the heart of his rehabilitation was his ACC ‘Recovery at Work’ programme.  

“ACC have been awesome,” he says. “From day one, they gave my recovery a blueprint. It’s been great to have a plan which was tailored to my injury.   

“When I got back on the mower and looked around, I knew all of the hard work was worth it.”  

Fintan back in his happy place - on top of his lawnmower at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club

“Excruciating pain” 

Fintan is new to living on the Kapiti Coast.  He moved there from Waikato to take up his apprenticeship at the golf club that has hosted the New Zealand Open 12 times.  

He signed up to play for the Kapiti Coast United Football Club to make some mates.  In the second game of the season, the winger pushed off his left leg and his knee buckled.
“I fell over and realised that I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t put any weight on it,” he says.   

“The pain was excruciating.”  

He saw a local physio who told him straight away he had ruptured his ACL.   

“When he said that I need to start preparing for surgery it hit me,” he says. “I realised I’d suffered a major injury.”  

Fintan with Leo Barber, General Manager of Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club

[My first thought] was thinking of Fintan and making sure he was OK. Then the selfish aspect kicks in. We are a small team... how do we get him back to work?
- Leo Barber, GM Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club

The long road to recovery 

Sitting on the bed at the physio clinic, Fintan’s first thought was work. 

He had a million worries running through his mind. He was nervous about doing it alone. 

“I’d just started my greenkeeper’s apprenticeship,” he says. “I’m trying to start a career and I had no idea where I was going to go to from here. 

“I had all of these things running through my head. Where am I going to have the surgery? What’s the impact going to be on my job? How was I going to cope on crutches post-surgery?” 

Leo Barber is the General Manager of the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club. He says when he heard Fintan was going to be out for a considerable amount of time, he had two emotions. 

“One was thinking of Fintan and making sure that he was ok,” he says. 

“Then the selfish aspect kicks in. We are a small team. We are going to be one person down and who is going to pick up that extra work. Then you work through those processes. What is it going to look like, how long is he going to be off and how do we get him back to work?” 

Fintan suffered his ACL rupture in April. He opted to have the surgery in August. 

Fintan's workplace, Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club

‘A Recovery at Work’ Plan

Fintan contacted ACC and we shaped a ‘Recovery at Work’ programme.

“It’s been a huge help,” he says. “To have a programme that was tailored to my injury and my job was really beneficial. It got me back to work a lot quicker and I’m all for that.”  

He says being back in the work environment was good for his physical and mental wellbeing.  

“I love my job so it’s not just missing out on your daily routine, it is missing out on a part of your life that you really enjoy,” he says. 

“I couldn’t wait to get back into work and into routine because I was starting to get pretty low.

“It was also important to get back on track with my apprenticeship and not lose valuable time.” 

ACC coordinated his ‘Recovery at Work’ plan with an occupational therapist and physiotherapist. 

He opted to have his surgery in Hamilton where he had the support of his family. When he got back to Kapiti he had a session with his physio to assess his knee’s strength and stability. 

The occupational therapist came to the club. She talked with Fintan, his supervisor Harry Middleton and Leo Barber, about the steps of getting back to work.  

They decided that after six weeks, Fintan could return to work. If his knee was OK, he would gradually build up his hours and work. 

“It was important there was no risk of re-tearing my ACL while it was still healing and quite vulnerable,” he says. “It was so good to be back with the boys and in the banter again.” 

Harry adds: “We worked out a plan to slowly build him back up to full-time hours. That would be useful for him and his knee, and useful for us to get some more work done.”

Fintan with his workmates during his Recovery to Work plan

Getting back in the game

Harry says it was great having Fintan back at work at 10 weeks following his surgery rather than 15 weeks.  

“The benefits were huge,” he says. “Being a small crew, losing workers during spring is quite crucial. Having him back to do some mowing and general maintenance was awesome. He’s enjoyed coming back sooner than expected. It worked out well for both parties.” 

The communication from Leo and Harry about his wellbeing was constant throughout.  

 “Communication is key for all parties in that situation,” says Leo. “Not only checking in with Fintan but ACC were really good with checking in with us. They would let us know where Fintan’s recovery was at and what the future steps would look like.” 

We have played a leading role in Fintan’s rehab. We covered surgery, physio and occupational therapist appointments. We also provided equipment and weekly compensation for any lost wages. 

“ACC covered everything, and they’ve been great to deal with,” he says. 

Fintan says it's an honour to work at the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club 

Be proactive about getting in contact with ACC. The Recovery to Work Programme has been great for me.
- Finan Cooper

“It’s an honour to work here”

The privilege of working at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club is not lost on Fintan. 

It’s widely regarded as one the best golf courses in New Zealand. It’s the only course that Tiger Woods has competed on. It has a storied history of some of New Zealand’s finest golf moments.

“It’s an honour to work here,” he says. “There isn’t a day I take it for granted. This place is awesome. I’m learning from two of the best in the business as well so I know I’m lucky.” 

Fintan working with Harry Middleton, Head Greenkeeper of Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course

Fintan has always had a love for sport. He sees sports turf management as a good way to be involved on a daily basis. 

“I’ve gained a real passion for working with sports turf and I'm learning,” says Fintan, who wants to work on the world stage. 

“I want to experience as much as I can in this industry.” 

He will always remember his recovery. He was appreciative to keep his apprenticeship on track.  

“I’m hugely grateful to the team here for their support and helping me every step of the way.” 

The Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club team recommends an ACC ‘Recovery at Work’ plan. 

“Trust the process,” says Leo.  “Communicate with your staff. Communicate with ACC. Take the best advice that is available and work through things.” 

Fintan adds: “Be proactive about getting in contact with ACC. The Recovery to Work Programme has been great for me.  It’s helped get my knee strong again and get me back into the workplace sooner than what was otherwise possible.” 

The Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club has hosted the New Zealand Open 12 times 

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