'Gulls forfeit chance of title
THE HERVEY Bay Seagulls bid to win the Bundaberg Rugby League A-grade premiership has come to an emotional end.
Not as a result of the elimination semi-final showdown against Bundaberg Brothers at Salter Oval in the Rum City on Saturday afternoon though – Seagulls didn’t play in it.
The death of a player, Sonny Johnson, hit the club so hard that coach Terry Horne made the decision to forfeit the game on Friday evening, just hours after the 26-year-old father of three had been laid to rest.
Johnson, who played for the Seagulls reserve grade team this season, died suddenly last weekend.
He was the uncle of an A-grade forward, and one of the best players in the competition, Tyrone Hopgood.
Horne said he realised at the funeral that plenty of players were not going to be in any fit state emotionally to play the following day.
“The funeral was so emotional – it rocked me and I wasn’t alone, I can assure you,” said Horne, who took over the coaching duties from Steve Crawford this year.
“When I looked at a group of the players, I just knew in my heart that some wouldn’t be up to playing.
“So when Tyrone (Hopgood) told me he wasn’t going to play, I wasn’t about to argue.
“He wasn’t the only one who felt the same way either so I made the call – I made the decision to forfeit.
“Without Tyrone and the others, I think we would have struggled to get 10 players – it was no good trying to find others to fill in the gaps at the last minute and still go up there.
“Nobody would have wanted to see us get thrashed by fielding an under-strength line-up.
“It was without doubt the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make in my football career, but it was the right one given the circumstances.
“I do really feel for those players who did want to play in the game – they can blame me as I was the one who made the call.”
Bundaberg Rugby League president Mal Breen said Seagulls forfeit was very disappointing from the league’s perspective.
“We all thought they would turn up with their black armbands and play the games of their lives,” said Breen, who attended the funeral.