Promising rugby player (28) dies after eating slug on dare

Sam Ballard seen in an earlier

Sam Ballard seen in an earlier

A promising Sydney rugby player has died, eight years after a dare by his mates left him paralysed.

Ballard was "surrounded by his family and loyal, loving mates" when he passed away, she said.

Speaking to The Project, he said: "We were sitting, having a bit of a red wine appreciation night, trying to act as grown-ups and a slug came crawling across".

It was a split-second decision that would change his life forever - and eventually cause his death.

When he woke up 420 days later he'd acquired a brain injury.

"The conversation came up, should I eat it?"

One of Sam's mates Jimmy Galvin spoke to Australian media about the night of the incident.

Australian newsreader Lisa Wilkinson, working for Network 10, broke the news on Sunday, saying: "We have some sad news for you now".

Mr Ballard's last words to his mother Katie were: "I love you". Bang. That's how it happened'.

He initially feared he might've developed multiple sclerosis, which his father suffered from, but then doctors discovered he'd been infected with rat lungworm.

Sam Ballard was left paralysed after contracting eosinophilic meningoencephalitis - a strand of meningitis.

When he was released from hospital, three years after being admitted, his friends rallied around him and tried to raise as much money as possible to help with the medical bills, but sadly it was never enough.

Michael Sheasby said: "When I walked in, he was very, very gaunt, and there were cables everywhere".

They'd watch footy like they used to and share a beer, even if that meant just a sip for Sam when Katie left the room.

Katie Ballard, Sam's mother, says she doesn't blame the boys for their silly dare, or her son for taking them up on it. "The impact is huge". An initial allocation of care as part of the government's National Disability Insurance Scheme saw the family receive $471,000.

The massive funding cut was without explanation and around-the-clock care means the Ballard family are heavily in debt and now owe a nursing service £25,000.