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1 week ago

University of Queensland Rugby Football Club

The day the game changed.By Martin Lippiatt

It feels like only yesterday but eight long years have passed since that fateful day at Yoku Road, where the lives of so many were changed forever. It was a July Saturday like any other as two timeless rivals duelled again in front of a buzzing Ladies Day crowd at GPS Ashgrove’s ‘Glue Factory’ Fortress.

Raring to go after a Reserve Grade win, 21-year-old UQ hooker, Halley Appleby, subbed onto the field for Premier Grade as a blood binned Mitch Wade needed some running repairs. The normality of it all would come to a jarring halt in one fleeting moment. For many of the players, spectators and volunteers on the field, it would never be the same.

“It was the worst day of my life,” first responder Heather Arthy said.

“A core part of me changed that day when I walked off that field.

“Rugby for me was always the release but something (that had been) untouchable wasn’t anymore.

“Reality had collided with my refuge.”

Halley wasn’t far from returning to the bench again when he carried the ball into a regulation tackle.

“When I got there he was unconscious but snoring, typical of a head injury that hasn’t come around yet. Then the snoring settled a little.

“My experience as an emergency nurse made me realise that he had a compromised breathing pattern.

“I said out loud ‘he’s not breathing enough to sustain life, I’m commencing mouth-to-mouth.”

With her sister Cat by her side they set to work in a scenario she had never been in.

“Usually in a “resus” you can say I did my best and walk away, but knowing him and it being one of my boys made it different,” the seasoned UQ Rugby Sports Trainer of 18 years said.

“Instincts and training kicked in which made my brain tell me what to do while my heart was screaming I was overreacting.”

For over 20 minutes Yoku Road stopped as the small group made up of the UQ medical team and doctors who emerged from the spectators maintained the flow of oxygen to Halley’s brain and heart. When the Queensland Ambulance service arrived, the then 10-season sports trainer rose from the ground to the reality of the situation.

“At some point someone had brought privacy screens down from the club house.

“Beyond them, I was shocked to see a stand full of faces staring back at me,” she said.

“It was like someone had hit pause on the whole world and it was completely silent.”

With his team mates still bound in a tight circle nearby and their opponents watching from their in-goal the ambulance departed and the match was abandoned. From the Wallabies to clubland the Rugby community held its breath for 24 hours until the medical results were made clear.

“Halley’s dad Gary greeted us at the hospital and just looking at his face we knew,” Arthy said.

“He said ‘It’s no good, Halley’s gone.”

The eerie silence that followed was punctured only by the sounds from a small television nearby of the Australian national anthem as the Wallabies prepared to take on Samoa. Alongside his family a wealth of Halley’s friends came to say their goodbyes with heavy broken hearts before his life support was switched off the next day on Monday July 18th.

As news spread over the following days it became clear that those closest were not alone.

“The rugby community rallied.

“An incredible tsunami of local and international people, clubs and organisations reached out to us as a club and individually,” said Arthy.

“There was no club rivalry, there was only love and concern”.

Halley’s Memorial Scholarship was created soon after. It is awarded each year to a Heavy apprentice that epitomises who and what Halley was. The community comes together every year at the Halley Appleby Memorial Ball to remember a great man, a great friend and reconfirm that, despite differences in jersey colour, rugby hearts beat the same.

He will never be forgotten and can be found at every club.

“He’s that guy that everyone naturally congregates around.

“He’ll rock up to training with boots in hand and sit down alone on the stands.

“You will look up 5 minutes later and find him in the middle of group of guys, laughing and chatting.

“He always has a comment, quip, or observation to pass on, requested or not, but never an unkind word spoken.”

“He plays hard on and off the field”.

Heather Arthy describes Halley Appleby.

UQ’s Premier Grade side will play GPS on July 27th at Yoku Road for the Halley Appleby Memorial Trophy.

University Rugby will celebrate Halley’s life at the 8th Annual Halley Appleby Memorial Ball on July 27th.

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Check out the replay of the nail-biting game against Brothers on the weekend today at 12pm or early Thursday morning! #uptheheavies
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