James Ackerman: Rugby league community, friends, family farewell fallen Sunshine Coast Falcons player
Jul
1
2015

Mourners at the funeral of late Queensland rugby league forward James Ackerman have formed a guard of honour to mark the service's end.

Ackerman was remembered as a tough football player who wore his heart on his sleeve.

A football was placed atop his coffin as it was walked onto the field for the service at Sunshine Coast Stadium, where he played one of his last games.

Hundreds of mourners watched on, including his Sunshine Coast Falcons teammates as well as league greats Allan Langer and Kevin Walters.

In a pre-recorded message, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett paid tribute to the Ackerman family and the young footballer's teammates for their courage and strength.

"To all those teammates there today and all those that played with him, I know you would be feeling the pain enormously," he said.

"But at the same time it doesn't diminish our game, it makes us stronger.

"When hard times do come we all pull together.

"I'm sure that all of you that are mates there today will always be mates."

Ackerman, a 25-year-old father of two, was knocked unconscious during a tackle just minutes into a Queensland Cup match against Norths Devils in Brisbane on June 20.

He never regained consciousness and died in hospital two days later.

Former teammate Todd Murphy said Ackerman was a quiet man of few words.

"You could tell that he was genuine person," he said.

Another teammate Tyson Brough told the funeral Ackerman lived to play football.

"Football, he loved it." he said.

"It would've meant the world to him, just playing with his mates.

"The fact that he could do something he loved, around the people he loved was massive."

Ackerman's uncle Tony Hart said his nephew did not go to school to learn, but to play rugby league.

He started playing in Dubbo in New South Wales in an under eights team, but often helped out the under 12s.

Mr Hart said Ackerman was a gifted all-round sportsman that "always played with his heart on his sleeve".

"He was a gentle giant, a man of few words and lived his life as if every day was his last.

"He made a lot of good mates through football and was loved, adored by all his family."

At the age of 10, Ackerman moved to the Sunshine Coast, where he lived next door to Beau Walker who later became a team mate.

They met when Ackerman kicked a football over the fence.

"Hard, tough - just wanted to smash ya," Walker said.

"He sent me through the fence palings sometimes, or we'd break some.

"At times I wanted to get back over my fence."

The funeral heard Ackerman lived for the moment, enjoying partying with mates and having an occasional punt on the horses.

'He was always very tough, very reliable'

There was a public outpouring of grief in the football community when Ackerman died, with dozens of teams kneeling before their matches to honour the rising star as part of a #takeakneeforackers social media initiative.

Ackerman's family donated his organs and two people received lifesaving transplants after his death in hospital.

Another 18 will benefit from tissue donations.

The tackle is yet to be reviewed by the Queensland Rugby League judiciary, but so far has found that Francis Molo, who made the tackle, was not yet fit to appear before the judiciary or play the game of rugby league.

A review of evidence and submissions upon the resumption of proceedings may determine what, or if, any charges or grading will arise.

Falcons player Callum Klein said Ackerman was quiet, honest and loyal, but tough on the field.

"He's played from a very young age, under nines, and he was always around the middle of the field - front rower, second rower, lock sort of area," Klein said.

"He was always tough, very reliable.

"He might have died playing the game that he loved, but to lose him that way we did is just so hard to swallow."

Klein said he will miss his mate.

"He was just a great bloke to be around," he said.

"Never gave you a reason not to like him and that's the hard part, him not being around.

"Me and James - we liked a bet and a beer, so we liked to go to the track and have a punt on a Saturday.

"They're the times I'll always remember apart from being on the footy field with him and being able to have a joke with him about the horses and why they're running so poorly on a Saturday."

The Ackerman family asks that donations be made to the James Ackerman Family Trust Fund in lieu of flowers to support James' wife Saraa and two young children Olliver and Millie.


Courtesy of ABC News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-01/james-ackerman-fallen-rugby-league-player-farewelled/6583516 

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