'Matt was an absolute warrior' - says wife of Tannum Seagull
RUGBY LEAGUE: Tannum Seagulls and Gladstone Brothers teams will do battle for a magnificent cause on Saturday - the Downey family.
The day will be The Matt's Memory for MND Fundraiser at Dennis Park to raise money for motor neurone disease research.
The illness killed Seagulls' legend Matt Downey in June 2017. He was age 40.
Matt is survived by wife Kelli and their three children Jacob, 18, Lara, 16, and Sian, 9.
Matt was a life member of the Tannum Seagulls and played for the club from 1995-2008. He also coached the club for a few years.
"Matt came to the club at the age of 18 and he came up from Brisbane," Kelli said.
"Matt was an amazing and talented football player predominantly playing hooker during his career.
"But he also donned the half-back and lock jersey during his time.
"Although he was only a little guy in stature, Matt was a phenomenal tackler and could topple the biggest guys on the field.
"He had a huge heart and so much courage and how he played represented just that.
"Matt was a great leader on the field and was fondly called the Little General by former The Observer sports reporter Roy Cook."
Matt was diagnosed with the disease in Brisbane in November 2014.
Motor neurone disease is a progressive neurological disease that impacts a person's motor neurones.
Progressively sufferers lose the use of their hands, arms, legs, being unable to walk, swallow, talk, eat and then lastly breathe.
Matt has left a positive and lasting legacy at his beloved Seagulls.
"In 2007 Matt combined with Will Jamieson to coach the Tannum Seagulls under-19 team," Kelli said.
"They had an amazing season and remained undefeated 20 out of 20 becoming both the extended league and local league premiers."
Matt and Will continued to coach the younger guys for the following season.
Matt also coached in 2012 alongside Gary Larson and John Andrews.
Kelli said Matt was a fierce competitor on the field.
"Matt was a much-loved and highly respected player, coach and club member of Tannum Seagulls," she said.
"He was a lovable larrikin who had an amazing cheeky grin.
"He was known for his incessant banter on the field, trying to rile up his opponents and put them off his game and hounding the referees."
Kellie said the Tannum Seagulls and Tannum Old Boys were a wonderful support for Matt after he was diagnosed.
The club held fundraisers in his honour and Kelli is determined to continue the tradition.
"It will allow me the chance to continue his legacy by hosting fundraisers to help other people that are diagnosed with motor neurone disease," she said.
"Matt was an absolute warrior during his battle with the beast that is MND.
"His strength, courage, wit and determination shone through during his darkest days.
"I have promised I'll spend the rest of my life raising awareness of this disease, supporting others diagnosed with MND and their families and doing as much as I can to fundraise for a cause so dear to my heart..."
A stall will be set up at Dennis Park and raffle tickets will be sold plus a multi-raffle will be drawn on Saturday night.
Raffle tickets for a signed and framed 2019 Brisbane Broncos jersey, which will be drawn in August, will also be on sale.
"There will be money boards, a cupcake sale, guess-the-lolly-jar competition and MND merchandise for sale," Kelli said.
A special Matt's Memory for MND commemorative Jersey has also been designed, which will be worn by the Seagulls' division one team.
Another set of jerseys will be auctioned on the night. All money raised will be donated to MND Queensland.