Josh Inong wasn't surprised that rugby became so important to him after he suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Harder to foresee was the central role the sport would play in his mother's recovery.
Josh and Corinne Inong were two of six victims of an unsolved and inexplicable shooting in the wee hours of June 19, 2005, after Josh and some friends had returned to his house on South Davis Street from a graduation party.
All six survived. But Josh wound up taking six bullets, including one that left a gaping wound in his thigh. Corinne was hit in the right heel by a ricocheting bullet as she washed dishes.
The incident did more than make Corinne feel vulnerable in her home. It deprived her of her favorite pastime, photography, for a year. When she was able to move around well enough to begin enjoying the camera again, she focused on Josh's matches.
"Everyone has known her and loved her," Josh said. "But she didn't know how big the community was in rugby until we got shot."
Meanwhile, Josh's big toe doesn't bend, and he experiences periodic throbbing back pain. But neither hinders him on the rugby field when he plays for Santa Rosa JC.
"He's a big inspiration for all of us," teammate Rey Perez said.
"He could be another mate in a wheelchair that we're playing for," said fellow SRJC player Dominic Patrick. "Instead, he's out here playing with us."
-- Phil Barber