‘My hero’: Dale Best given ultimate last honour
In one final act to honour the man they called The Beast, Maroochydore Swans Rugby League Club have temporarily retired the number 8 jersey worn by Dale Best.
Mr Best was farewelled on Sunday morning at the Swans clubhouse with hundreds of green and white faithful turning out to show their respects to the big man.
He was remembered for his unwavering support to friends and family, his genuine kindness, his smile and for simply being a force of nature on the field.
Mr Best's life was suddenly cut short while playing the game he loved above all others. The same game he started way back in under-9s.
It was during a trial against Kawana Dolphins on February 20, when he collapsed on the field and died.
He was 34.
Applause reverberated through the grandstand as his mother Karen and brothers Shayne and Jack made their way through the masses arm in arm.
Words from Karen, spoken to the crowd by the celebrant, honoured a "valued friend, beloved son, uncle and brother".
"You are a legend and my hero," her words read.
"I cannot be more proud of you or more blessed.
"Dale, our family has experienced so much joy, pride and delighted being apart of your life. From the day you were born you've been a treasured gift."
Scott Jeffrey, a long-time friend and teammate, gave an emotional reflection of who Mr Best was as a person and player.
"He was genuine in his friendship … always smiling, always composed, always supportive … not so much always modest, he would tell you exactly how good he was going," Mr Jeffrey said to chuckles of admiration in the audience.
"On the field we called him The Beast. For good reason.
"He had a great tackle technique and would go at the opposition square on. Wow.
"He had time for everyone and never changed who he was.
"To Dale's family, as you can see by the abundance of people here today, you raised a great man."
Maroochydore Swans junior president Paul McMillan, a man who knew Dale from an early age, spoke of Dale's passion for the sport, his natural charm that drew people in and the blossoming prospects he had for the future.
Laughs were shared too of footy trips away to Byron Bay where Mr Best's mischievous side would come out to play.
From Mr Best walking down Byron's main drag dressed in a netball kit to camping trips where the big fella come out of his one-man tent backwards.
"Great memories. We would sit and talk, he'd often grab the front seat in my car to games," Mr McMillan said.
"We knew Dale would analyse things, cover lots of subjects.
"The last trip away we discussed his working future.
"From there, we got Dale started at Northcoast Stone and he really went ahead with this business."
In a touching but lasting tribute, Swans seniors president Simon Graye said the club had retired the number 8 jersey for the season.
Mr Graye he was "overwhelmed" at the show of support from the Coast's rugby league community, none more so than Kawana Dolphins.
From fundraising for the funeral arrangements, to a minute's silence in games across the state to the outpouring of support shown by their arch rivals.
"To Kawana, I am lost for words," Mr Jeffrey said in his address.
"I have played against you for almost 30 years and today I can stand here and declare I no longer hate you.
"I am forever grateful for your support.
"To the Sunshine Coast Falcons, Beerwah last night, and the community as a whole, thank you."
Mr Jeffrey's final words were dedicated to Mr Best.
"Lastly, to The Beast, we will miss you down here mate. I hope you've found that all elusive 100 per cent."
Rest in peace.