15 October 2002

Sydney suburb Coogee mourns the loss of six sporting sons in Bali blast

by Michael Hutak
805 words
15 October 2002
Agence France-Presse
English

SYDNEY, Oct 15 (AFP) - Bedecked with flags advertising a popular local beer, the Beach Palace Hotel overlooks idyllic Coogee Beach, the focus of one of Sydney's most affluent suburbs.
In a very Australian gesture, those same flags flew at half-mast Tuesday, as residents mourned the death of six local sportsmen in Saturday's bomb blast in Bali.
Like scores of sporting clubs around the nation, the Coogee Dolphins Rugby League Club -- born and bred at the Beach Palace -- began their annual end-of-season holiday in Bali last week.
Today they count their dead: club president Clint Thompson, 29, team manager, Adam Howard, 26, treasurer Shane Foley, 33, and players Joshua Iliffe, 28, Gerard Yeo, 20 and David Mavoudis, 28.
"We're all still trying to come to grips with it," said the Dolphin's secretary, Mal Ward, who was all booked to go on the trip but decided to cancel at the last minute, preferring to spend time with his son.
On Saturday night, all 11 in the Dolphins' party were in the Sari Club in Kuta. Miraculously, five decided to leave the club just minutes before the blast.
"They then had to identify the bodies of their mates," said Ward, "and I just feel for those five, for what they've endured and what they've seen. That's a memory they will have to carry for the rest of their lives."
The Dolphins are an amateur club which plays rugby league football for the love of the game -- and to raise funds for local charity.
Every year they raise more than 10,000 dollars (5,500 US) for the Sydney Childrens Hospital.
The chief executive of the Hospital's Foundation, Elizabeth Crundall said the generosity of Dolphins was "typical of the community and sporting groups we rely on to survive."
"They've paid for physiotherapy equipment, for special beds, and they also would come and visit the kids in hospital. The kids loved them," she said.
"It's appalling that those who have been so giving of themselves should be struck down so senselessly."
The Dolphins and the Beach Palace have grown up together, the club was founded in the public bar the same year the hotel opened, in 1992.
"We've backed the boys since they started," said the Beach Palace manager, Tim Crowe.
The pub sponsors the club, paying for their sporting gear and outfits and by "putting a couple of hundred bucks on the bar after a game," added Crowe.
"A lot of them are locals who drink here all year round. We had 150 Dolphins supporters in here yesterday for a wake and it was a surprisingly happy occasion, with everyone remembering the good times."
The bad times are right now, as the enormity of the tragedy sinks in.
"Some of the families of our boys were there and they were able to see how many people were at the wake offering their support and that was good," said a Dolphin member, Paul Vanni.
"I think we all took solace yesterday in the fact that we were there in numbers and everybody was able to grieve with each other.
"We're still together and I suppose if you're looking for something good amongst all this tragedy, then that was something."
Vanni said five of his mates' bodies had been identified, even though badly burned, and the sixth was presumed dead. "We know he was with the other guys at the time so there's very little hope," he said.
"We considerd having a special memorial service but we also realized that we have six funerals to attend," Vanni said. "That will be the sorriest time."
Leading Australian thoroughbred jockey Simon Marshall was close friends with Adam Howard, who was also involved in the racing scene.
"It's just devastating," Marshall told AFP. "Adam loved his football, he loved horse racing, he loved life and he lived it to the full... for a 27 year old kid in his prime to be cut down like this is, well, there's no justice, is there."
The Dophins were not alone in their grief, with several football clubs across the nation counting their casualties and awaiting news of the missing.
The suburban Australian Rules football club in Kingsley outside Perth has seven players unaccounted for and presumed dead, and in the small New South Wales town of Forbes, three members of the local football team are believed to have perished in the massacre.
Back in Coogee, Ward was adamant: "We'll definitely carry on."
"We're more determined than ever that for the memory of the blokes we've lost there's no way we'll let this club fold."

ENDS

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