James Ackerman, a rugby league player for Sunshine Coast Falcons in Australia, has died after suffering serious head injuries in a tackle during a Queensland Cup game.
Ackerman, 25, died in hospital two days after suffering the injury in a match against Norths Devils on Saturday. The father-of-two was immediately treated on the field at Bishop Park before being rushed to hospital in Brisbane, where he received further treatment.
The match was immediately abandoned, and Queensland Rugby League (QRL) sadly confirmed on Monday that Ackerman has succumbed to his injuries.
Australian newspaper the Courier-Mail has reported that Francis Molo, the 20-year-old who made the tackle on Ackerman, is “struggling to cope with the news.”
A statement released by Ackerman’s family, which includes his wife Saraa, children Olliver and Milly, brothers Andrew and Thomas and his parent Michael and Sonya, said: "James loved the game of rugby league, he always played the game with his heart on his sleeve. We will miss you."
The statement also thanked the medical staff of both clubs as well as the paramedics that treated Ackerman, and thanked the “overwhelming support” that they received from his team-mates.
Ackerman has been labelled a “champion guy” by the Falcons’ chief executive officer Chris Flannery, who also said he was the “heart and soul of our team”.
“He lived for rugby league,” said Flannery. “He was a tough competitor and a fine player who in many ways was the heart and soul of our team."
QRL managing director Robert Moore described the tragic incident as a “very difficult and traumatic time.”
Moore added: "We send our deepest condolences to James's family and friends, and the Sunshine Coast club.
"One of the strengths of rugby league is the game's ability to rally behind its own - and I have no doubt this will happen throughout this challenging period."
Both the Falcons and the Devils are feeder teams to the NRL, with Sunshine Coast supplying the Melbourne Rebels side while Norths do the same with the Brisbane Broncos.
NRL chief executive Dave Smith said: "This is such a tragedy and we send our sympathies to everyone who knew and loved James."
The NRL also confirmed that there will be a minute’s silence at the game between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Roosters, while the players will also wear black armbands in memory of Ackerman.
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