Redmen rally after loss of a mate

GRAFTON Redmen under-19 coach Steve Hackett wears his heart on his sleeve and as a player always gave 100 per cent.

He’s an emotional bloke who expects his players to leave nothing out on the paddock and give their all-in fact he demands it.

Last week Hackett needed to be more then a coach: he needed to be a counsellor, a father-figure, but most importantly he needed to friend.

Hackett and his team had to deal with the sudden loss of a team-mate last week leading up to Saturday’s game against Ballina. Kyle Clifford their number one halfback for the season was tragically killed in a car accident which sent shock waves through the Redmen Rugby Club. For Hackett and the team it was a difficult period in their lives and they are still coming to grips with the loss of one of their most-loved team-mates.

“This week has been the toughest week I’ve had coaching a football team,” Hackett said. “Leading up to the game we had virtually no preparation. All the boys turned up for training on Tuesday and no one touched a football after that.

“They were here (Saturday) at 11am and we had a team run and most of the team turned up, by the start of the game we had 30 blokes waiting to play. “The guys have been a wreck all week…there were six or seven of them who were inconsolable but they played today and got the job done.” The Redmen finished the game with a win, an impressive 19-12 victory against a side destined to make the semi-finals.

But for Hackett the win was more then gaining two competition points – it was a chance to honour their larrikin team-mate.

“To win under the circumstances was unbelievable. After the game I said to them I’ve never been so proud of a bunch of blokes…the way they got over all the controversy and emotion through the week…it’s a credit to the side,” he said.

Singing the team song after a win has always been a tradition at the Redmen but on Saturday it was special and brought a tear to even the most hardened rugby supporter. “The best part was after the game, emotions were running high and Kyle’s mum joined the huddle while the boys sang the team song around her, it was very special,” Hackett said.

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