Saints' crowd doctor Sefton decides to call it a day

Dominic Sefton with Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian MujatiDominic Sefton with Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati
Dominic Sefton with Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati
You might not have heard of Dominic Sefton, but if you’re a Saints regular, he’s been on standby to keep you safe for years.

Sefton has been the crowd doctor at Franklin’s Gardens since the mid-nineties, having previously been Saints’ team doctor.

The 60-year-old, who retired as a general practitioner a couple of years ago, has remained a firm fixture at the Gardens.

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And it’s even fair to say that if he misses a game, then the game doesn’t happen, such is the requirement for someone performing the role he does every matchday.

And his presence, though not known about by many supporters, has been a big comfort to the club.

Should anything go wrong with someone’s health on a matchday, Sefton has always been there to step in.

From people being hit by rugby balls to fans passing out due to sunstroke, Sefton helps to deal with it all.

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But now he is ready to hang up his stethoscope, in the typically quiet fashion that he has gone about his business for all these years.

Sefton was due to sign off at Saints’ final home game, against Sale Sharks at Franklin’s Gardens, back in May, but that farewell was cancelled as the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to rugby.

And though he is sad he didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to his job at the Gardens, it turns out his family came up with the next best thing.

“We had intended for the whole family to be at the ground - all four of my children, all of their partners, my wife, my dad who still goes, possibly my brother - so it was sad,” Sefton said.

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“But on the day that I was supposed to do my last shift, my family arranged a Zoom party and they decorated all their houses with Saints stuff and they gave me a chance to talk about crowd doctoring and life at the Saints.

“It was just brilliant!”

Sefton happily admits he could talk for hours about his time as a crowd doctor, which almost sounds more like a DJ role than a medical one.

But it is something that is vital on matchdays and which was introduced in rugby in the 1990s, following on from a football template.

Sefton explained: “Back in the late 1980s with things like the Hillsborough disaster, the Bradford stadium fire, the Heysel major incident, the FA (Football Association) responded by saying that every football team in the country had to have a doctor who would be responsible of taking charge of all the medical resources at the ground if something like a stadium disaster happened.

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“The Saints decided to emulate what happened in football when professionalism came in and the crowd doctor position was introduced around 1995.

“Barry Nuttall did it for a year and then I took over after being on Barry’s our-man team of club doctors.

“Thankfully, in the 25 years I’ve been doing it, we’ve never had any kind of major incident.

“But I often joke that if I’m not there, the match doesn’t happen because it is really a legal responsibility for matches with a crowd of more than 2,000 to only take place if a crowd doctor is present.”

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Saints will be thanking their lucky stars that Sefton never got stuck in traffic travelling to the game and he has always been on time to fulfil his role.

But was he really able to enjoy a matchday, always knowing something could happen that may throw a spanner in the works at any time?

“I can enjoy it and then I switch on immediately if anything happens,” he said, happily.

“I don’t have a seat in the stands but if I want to watch, which I always do, being a lifelong rugby fan, I stand in the tunnel.

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“If there is a spare seat after kick-off I’ll go and perch in it and I’m always in radio contact if anyone needs me.”

Sefton, who lives in Weston Favell, is now looking forward to having more weekends free to spend with his family, but he will still be attending as many Saints matches as he can.

“We’re a big rugby family and there’s always been a couple of my kids in the stands because they shared season tickets,” he said.

“I haven’t put in for a season ticket yet but there’s every chance I will do.”

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