Mates' tears for rugby champion

Halley Appleby
Halley Appleby Nicholas Falconer

HALLEY Appleby was destined to play rugby at the highest level.

The 21-year-old carpenter’s apprentice was on the verge of a charge into the top ranks of the sport.

But a freak accident during a match in Brisbane on Saturday ended the young Eumundi dynamo’s dream.

He died yesterday after it was decided to turn off his life support.

Halley had been working in Brisbane, but every chance he got he headed back home to Noosa to play footy with his mates.

They were part of the Dolphins reserve grade side that won the Sunshine Coast premiership last year (above).

This season, the talented hooker started playing with the University of Queensland.

Star Wallaby centre James O’Connor, who went to school with Halley at Nudgee College in Brisbane’s north, was stunned.

“I grew up with Halley and lived three doors down from him in the boarding dorms at Nudgee College.”

“It's a massive shock,” O’Connor said.

“All the boys are sticking together and trying to help his family out as much as possible.

“He was a really bubbly guy, always the life of the party.

“He was always the one up to mischief in the dorms, creating havoc.

“Halley loved his rugby, he was all about it ... there’s no words I can say, it’s devastating.”

The Coast’s rugby community was also in shock yesterday.

Gary and Sue Appleby were reportedly on the sideline watching their son play for the University of Queensland first grade side when he suffered a brain injury and spinal fracture in a tackle.

The rising star, who grew up in Eumundi and went to school at Good Shepherd Lutheran College, had been on the field for only five minutes.

Medical staff from his University club and their GPS opponents were joined by Queensland Reds doctor Greg Smith, who was a spectator, work on Halley as an ambulance was called.

He was taken to Royal Brisbane Hospital but never regained consciousness.

As Halley’s Noosa Dophins team- mates gathered at their clubhouse for an informal wake yesterday afternoon, club president Greg Dodd said the young hooker had been born to play rugby.

“I had the pleasure of knowing young Halley since he was five and even then he looked like a rugby player,” he said.

“He had a confident swagger about him – amazing for someone so young.

“He was a fantastic player who could have gone all the way.

"He had the attitude and the physical ability.

“It would have been no surprise to anyone see him turn up in professional football ranks and some of us believed he had the ability to one day play for Australia.”

Halley began playing with Noosa as a junior.

In a bid to pursue his rugby career, he spent his final three years of high school at Brisbane’s Nudgee College.

There, he played in the school’s First XV alongside O’Connor.

A teacher from Good Shepherd Lutheran College described Halley as “a great team player whose commitment and spirit of fair play were respected by his peers”.

“Hayley’s talents weren’t confined only to the sporting arena – he achieved very highly in all of his academic subjects,” he said.

Nudgee College issued a statement describing Halley’s death as “a tragic loss”.

“The thoughts and prayers of the Nudgee College community are with Halley’s family and friends as well as all 2007 Old Boys who must be struggling at this tragic loss.”

Mr Dodd said the young player had spent a couple of years playing football with his Coast mates but his signing with the University club was a new chapter in his attempts to break into the big time.

Noosa Dolphins coach Stuart Beakey said Appleby’s former team-mates were devastated.

“He was a great bloke,” he said.

University of Queensland head coach Mick Keenan said Appleby had played a full game earlier in the day and often played off the bench for the premiers.

There were no concerns about the tackle that caused the injury.

“He was a fit and healthy young player and he’d done the full pre-season with us, he never missed a training session,” he said.

“It was just a horrible accident.”

According to a tribute posted on the Green and Gold rugby site, Appleby left a lasting legacy, donating five organs to others.

Topics:  halley appleby tackle university of queensland

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