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Toy clear to play despite heart worry

Josh Toy playing for the Suns against Essendon.

Josh Toy playing for the Suns against Essendon. Photo: Mal Fairclough

TALENTED young Gold Coast defender Josh Toy has been assured that a congenital heart problem diagnosed when he joined the club three years ago should not cut short his AFL career.

Toy, who is interested in being traded home to a Melbourne club after playing 13 games in the Suns' first two seasons, has undergone two stress tests and consulted a cardiologist in the past week after clubs expressed concern about his condition and its effect on his aerobic capacity.

The 20-year-old, who has congenital heart block, was told on Tuesday that while he will require a pacemaker later in life, the condition will not prevent him from playing football at AFL level. He will see the specialist again next week.

Toy was signed by the Gold Coast as a highly rated 17-year-old in  2009, as part of the club's draft concessions. This meant he didn’t undergo a medical screening — including an echocardiogram — at a draft camp.

The condition means he has both a low resting heart rate and a low maximum heart rate, which has a negative effect on his endurance and his ability to increase it. The only way to fix the problem is with a pacemaker, which would mean he could no longer play contact sport.

“There’s obviously some concern, but we’ve been told Josh isn’t putting himself in any danger at all by playing footy. From everything we’ve heard he’s safe to play,” said the backman’s manager, James Pitcher. “That lines up exactly with what the Gold Coast was told when Josh first got up there.”

Toy remained in Melbourne to finish school at Essendon Grammar in 2010 but played a few VFL games that year. He has struggled to break into the senior line-up in the past two years and has not yet completed a preseason, with his 2012 season affected by an Achilles problem that almost ruined his summer.

The Suns are sympathetic to Toy’s desire to return home, given his strong sense of responsibility to his mother and brothers after the death of his father. One of his brothers is going into year 12 next year and Toy would like to be around to support him.

He has spoken with the Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn and, briefly, with Essendon but also feels positive about remaining with the Suns, who have offered him a one-year contract extension, should a trade not be worked out.

Gold Coast had Toy assessed by a Brisbane cardiologist immediately after the problem was identified, and he was cleared to continue playing.

Football manager Marcus Ashcroft told The Age that the club had taken every precaution with the half-back before allowing him to play.

“Our doctors became aware of it and as soon as they did we investigated it. The cardiologist and the doctors gave him the all clear to keep playing and that was more than a year ago,” Ashcroft said.

“Like every club we’re conscious of making sure our players are fit and healthy. We have a duty of care and we do our utmost to make sure they’re OK to play.

“It was looked at, investigated, he was given the all-clear and he’s progressed since then with no problems at all.”

Toy was a junior star when the Suns signed him, his kicking and reading of the play a highlight of his underage career at Essendon Grammar, the Calder Cannons and Vic Metro.

He was a member of the AIS-AFL Academy’s 2008 intake along with Trent McKenzie, Shaun Atley, Mitch Duncan, Jack Darling and others, winning the Ben Mitchell Medal for his on and off-field qualities.

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