WITH the farewelling of Shawn Mackay complete, there was no more fitting person for his best mate, Morgan Turinui, to turn to than Mackay’s younger brother and fellow Randwick teammate, Matt.
At Waverley’s Mary Immaculate Church in Sydney’s eastern suburbs yesterday, Turinui and Matt Mackay delivered eulogies for Shawn Mackay, who died in a Durban hospital last Monday week from a blood infection that followed surgery on injuries he suffered when struck by a vehicle on March 27.
As with Mackay’s uncle and godfather, John Hurley, who spoke earlier, and Brumbies coach Andy Friend, who read out the poem The Man in the Glass , emotion ran deep as Turinui and Matt Mackay spoke. In between, they embraced.
“Through every major moment of my life, he’s been standing next to me,” Turinui said of Shawn Mackay, whom he first met at kindergarten in Clovelly before forging a friendship that would endure the years of a journey with so much youthful hope, brazen ambition and wild adventure through Waverley College and their footballing careers.
With that journey over, it was fitting that Turinui and Matt Mackay led the team of pallbearers that carried Mackay’s coffin out to the hearse as Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me played.
With another heart-wrenching task over, Turinui and Matt Mackay again fell into each other’s arms – their emotions epitomising the sorrow shared by all in a gathering of close to 1000 mourners who gave him a champion’s adieu.
As Mackay’s coffin was driven through a 300-metre tunnel of past and present teammates, everyone who had filled the church to capacity for the service or stood outside to listen to it broadcast through speakers broke into applause. The Mackay family has been taken aback by the outpouring of grief and praise for their 26-year-old son.
As Hurley said in his eulogy: “We are only just realising what an impact he had on so many people.”
Yesterday’s funeral reinforced that. So many came to share the moment with Mackay’s family, which included his parents, John and Leonie, younger brother Matt, sister Kristy and his partner Trish Scott.
There were his Brumbies teammates who flew to Sydney from Canberra in the morning. There were the Waratahs with whom he played six games in 2006. Some came from the Western Force. Then there was past and present Roosters with whom he won a Jersey Flegg title; former and current players and officials from both codes.
Mackay’s footy ties were recognised with the placement on his coffin of the jerseys he wore – from Clovelly juniors, to Waverley College, the Roosters, Randwick, Melbourne Rebels, Australian Sevens and the Brumbies.
From Turinui, to Matt Mackay, John Hurley and even Fathers Nic Lucas and George Connolly, who shared the celebrant duties, all spoke of Mackay’s zest for life. They spoke of when he first laid a bet as a five year-old – “50 cents on the nose”, said Hurley. Of his favourite horses, which Turinui recalled were Sunline because it led from the start and Octagonal for the way it got out of impossible situations. Then of how he began footy aged six, won the CAS (Catholic All Schools) 1500m and 800m athletics titles and became known the “White Kenyan”.
Finally, his days with Randwick, the Australian Sevens team he captained and, according to Turinui, led “the same way that he led an 800m – from the front”, the Waratahs, the Rebels and then finally the Brumbies.
And, of course, there were the Wallaroos, Australia’s World Cup-winning women’s sevens team which Mackay so willingly coached in the Oceania qualifiers. The players said they would forever remember him as “one of the girls”.
As Father Lucas so profoundly said: “He might not have had a full life, but it sounds to me he was full of life.”
And John Worley said in his eulogy: “As we all know, rugby is the game they play in heaven and we know who will be the captain of the side.”