STAND TOGETHER: Wests players stand together with the other A-grade teams at Salter Oval in memory of James Ackerman. Photo: Ben Turnbull / NewsMail
STAND TOGETHER: Wests players stand together with the other A-grade teams at Salter Oval in memory of James Ackerman. Photo: Ben Turnbull / NewsMail Ben Turnbull

Together they stand as one

THE harsh reality of sport was dragged from the dark corners of everyone's mind at Salter Oval before Wests played Isis in the main A-grade game of the Bundaberg Rugby League.

As the players stood arm in arm for a minute's silence in honour of Sunshine Coast Falcons forward James Ackerman who died at the weekend from injuries in a game of rugby league, something became clear.

It's just a game.

Ackerman's death has again galvanised the sporting community, and players who were about to rip into each other for 80 minutes from Wests and Isis, along with those from Brothers and Waves Tigers who had moments before finished their game, to stand shoulder to shoulder to remember someone they had never met.

Jersey number 8 was retired from the games at Salter Oval and the silence at the ground and the emotional expressions on the players' faces showed Ackerman had touched everyone involved in rugby league.

Bundaberg Rugby League (BRL) chairman Mike Ireland sad the sport was going through a tough time but the bonds that held the sport together, and with each other they would all get through this difficult period.

"It's very difficult times for any sport - we had it last year with the death of Phil Hughes and in any sport it is sad," Ireland said.

"The reality out of it all is the players, whether they're in the BRL, Queensland Cup or the NRL, they are all mates off the field."

Once the players went their teams' ways, the mood changed and the players got the game under way.

Wests opened the scoring early and raced to a lead and were on track for a big score, but after losing centres James Pritchard and Joel Turaga to injury the Panthers cruised to a 50-4 victory.

Pritchard suffered a possible dislocated elbow after scoring a try and left the ground in an ambulance. It will be weeks before he is back playing. Turaga hurt his ankle in the win and will have to be assessed before he can play again.



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