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February 2 was a day that will live in the hearts for all Australians and Coogee Dolphin fans alike. For those as lucky as I was, to witness such a passionate and heart-warming tribute for the Coogee Dolphins, I think you would agree that it was a moment that will always stay with you.
In October last year, the team known as the Dolphins, were rocked to find that six team members and good friends were killed in an unprovoked terrorist attack on the Sari nightclub in Bali, where the team had been staying for a post-season trip. In a statement of patriotism and unity amongst the Australian public, a tribute was organised and football players united to play in an exhibition match.
For those that were travelling with the team to Bali, there were many statements of bravery, searching through the rubble to find lost mates. This was one of the bleakest days in both Australian history and the Coogee Dolphins club. Six men: Clint Thompson, Adam Howard, David Mauroudis, Shane Foley, Gerard Yeo and Joshua Iliffe, were all killed on that fateful night at the Sari club.
In an attempt to ease the suffering of mourning, the NRL invited the team to participate in the World Sevens Qualifying Tournament, held at St. Mary?s on the 28th January. In what was a show of unity and friendship, ex-football greats Mark Geyer, Matthew Johns, Brett Mullins and Adam Muir, confirmed their services to the qualifying tournament, in tribute to those that died in the bombings.
It was an historic day, with the Coogee Dolphins jersey taking the field for the first time since the Bali bombing. It was definitely safe to say that when the day came, the Dolphins were overwhelming crowd favourites, all and sundry hoping that this team could perform and get through to the next round, making it even more historic. The Dolphins competed in the hardest group of the four, going up against NSW Country and the NZ Maori. The Dolphins lost both their qualifying games with 26-10 and 24-8 subsequently, to be eliminated from the tournament. The players that played for the Coogee outfit all left with smiles on their faces, knowing they had done their boys proud. Brock Thompson, whose brother Clint was killed, stated, ?I think it was a fitting tribute?, and you couldn?t say it wasn?t.
But even though they lost on that day, in an amazing show of camaraderie, the NRL organised an exhibition match to be played between the USA and the Dolphins on February 2.
As the Dolphins took the field, it was evident the boys were doing it for their mates. Prior to the match, the organisers put together a tribute video, showing all the victims of the bombing. As one the crowd stood and looked at the large screen and watched attentively. It was a great sign of respect and heartache for the victims, making it hard not to be emotional.
Before we knew it, it was game on, with the Dolphins opening the scoring. The Dolphins were runaway winners 38-12 over the USA Tomahawks, who also suffered the loss of their Columbia Space Shuttle the day prior. One fitting memory that will remain in my mind for a long time, was when a Coogee Dolphin player scored a try in the north-eastern corner of the ground, next to where I was sitting, and got up and kissed his fingers and put them in the sky, saying ?That one?s for you mate!?
The Coogee Dolphins are a team that has had many good times, a team that has fostered some of the greats of the game, a team that has given so much to the community. On February 2 though, it was our turn to give back, and give back we did. We all, as one, paid tribute to the victims of the Bali bombing. It was a fitting tribute to a team that has experienced so much hardship and mourning over the last few months. It is hoped that the tribute eased some of the suffering of the families and the club, to some extent, knowing that Australia is suffering with them.
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