Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

One Tackle Changed It All

Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

One Tackle Changed It All

Article excerpt

Kathy Sundstrom

ASHLEY Robinson heard the "thud" from the other side of the field as James Ackerman was shoulder charged in the game that claimed his life.

The Sunshine Coast Falcons' chairman has spoken for the first time of the events surrounding the day - and how it has changed his perspective on the dangers to players.

Ashley has never been one for "cotton-wooling kids" and is walking evidence of the rigours of the sport, but he says he now cannot support shoulder charges.

He has words of advice for commentator and former Blue's coach Phil Gould, who has been leading a call for the style of tackle to be brought back.

"He hasn't experienced what this club has been through and involved in the aftermath," he said.

"I can see both sides of the argument but I would be a hypocrite, after what we've been through, not to say I believe they should be banned."

Ashley rushed on to the fields with other players and support staff after James, a 25-year-old father-of-two, collapsed after the tackle.

"He was unconscious, but we all kind of believed he was only knocked out," he recalled.

They were given more hope when a doctor on site said James's vital signs "were good".

That hope was dashed within hours.

"I received word from a (medical) friend later that night that he had the same injury as Phil Hughes (the cricketer who died after being hit in a neck by a bouncer on November 27)."

The next day Ashley and the entire Falcons outfit went to the hospital to say their goodbyes.

"We were told unless there was a miracle, his life support would be turned off."

Three days later, James died and his organs were donated to help others.

The outpouring of grief and community support for the Ackerman family and the Falcons players has inspired Ashley.

And if any good could be seen in such a tragedy, it was how "the young players reacted to this". …

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