Community in mourning following death of Murwillumbah footy player Grant Cook
THE COMMUNITY is in mourning following the tragic death of Murwillumbah Mustangs player Grant Cook, who died in hospital overnight after collapsing during a rugby league preliminary final on Sunday afternoon.
The 28-year-old took himself off the field "distressed” a minute before half time as the Mustangs were leading the Casino Cougars by 8:4 in a high-octane, Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League semi-final contest at Murwillumbah's homeground of Stan Sercombe Oval.
Tweed Shire Councillor Barry Longland, who was watching the game, said spectators were overwhelmed with concern as Cook collapsed on the sidelines, and watched anxiously as the father-of-two received first-aid.
"I saw the (impact) and it didn't look dangerous,” Cr Longland said.
"There was a break away by Casino and the player that was injured took a hit to the head during the intercept. He came off the field of his own steam, then he collapsed and had a fit or seizure.”
Cr Longland said players and supporters held up sheets to protect Cook's privacy while attempts were made to revive him.
"It felt like an eternity by the time the ambulance arrived and they further gave him oxygen to sustain his breathing ,” Cr Longland said.
"When the ambulance left it was announced that he was breathing by himself.
"Everything was on edge until it was announced he was okay and on his way to hospital and he was breathing on his own.”
NSW Ambulance confirmed paramedics were called for help at 3.32pm, with the first of three ambulances arriving at the Nullum St fields at 3.57pm, with the 20-minute wait longer than standard.
"You would hope that when the patient is serious, it would take 10 to 12 minutes for the first resource to arrive,” a NSW Ambulance spokesman said.
Paramedics worked to revive Cook for about 30 minutes, before transporting him to Gold Coast University Hospital where his condition deteriorated.
He later passed away, surrounded by family and friends.
Tweed-Byron Local Area Command police are investigating the circumstances which led to Cook's death, with a police report to be submitted to the NSW Coroner.
Tributes flowing in
Tributes have begun pouring in for the much-loved father-of-two, Mount St Patrick College pupil and owner of Tweed Growers Farm Fresh Produce.
He was remembered by his wife Colleen today as a dedicated father.
"My beautiful husband Grant is now an angel watching over us. He has left a huge hole in my heart and I know all family, especially his parents, are hurting trying to understand this tragedy,” she wrote on Facebook.
"Walking away down that hospital corridor was one of the hardest things I have ever done. And I'm surprised I made it out with how heavy my legs and heart and body felt. We loved him so much, and he loved us.
"I do feel immensely proud of Grant. He helped so many, he loved unconditionally, he forgave others and taught me to do the same.”
NRRRL president Brian Rix said the league was closing ranks around Cook's family and friends and providing counselling for players if required.
"All the distressed players that were around there, the league is organising some counselling this morning for the players that might require it and we're talking to the Casino players to make sure that they're all okay,” Mr Rix told ABC Radio today.
"There was no indication there was anything serious on the sideline at that stage, except that he may have collapsed from exhaustion, they continued to play, and then the half-time break came it became more serious.
"We have no idea (if it was because of a tackle).”
Country Rugby League sent their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Cook, but declined to comment further.
Residents have also paid tribute:
Helen Kenny said: "My thoughts are with all his family and friends. May he Rest In Peace.”
Joshua Harmer said: "Thoughts and prayers are with the family and friend. Such a freak accident and just highlights how brutal the game we love can be.”
Matty Roberts said: "Our sincere prayers go out to his family and team mates. RIP, mate, from the Casino Cougars Football Club.”
The match was postponed until Tuesday night but has now been cancelled.