Grieving Brumbies to be given time off

Shocked teammates of Brumbies forward Shawn Mackay, who died after being hit by a car in South Africa, will be allowed to opt out of this weekend’s game, coach Andy Friend said Tuesday.

Mackay and his distraught father would want the Brumbies to win their Super 14 match against South Africa’s Stormers in Canberra on Saturday, Friend said, but there would be no pressure on grieving players to turn out.

“We’ll certainly respect every player’s view on that, for all of us this is an absolute tragedy,” Friend told reporters.

“We’ve got a lot of young players who’ve never dealt with anything like this in the past. So if players aren’t up for playing we’re certainly not going to make them play.”

Mackay, 26, died on Monday of cardiac arrest after sustaining multiple injuries when he was hit by an armed response car in a Durban street while on the Canberra-based Brumbies’ Super 14 tour of South Africa.

Friend, who received the news of the young lock’s death as he flew home with the squad on Monday, said he had a difficult phone conversation with Mackay’s father John.

“His boy’s come away with us on a tour and he hasn’t come home, so there’s a sense of responsibility from us,” Friend said.

“John was obviously distraught but also at the same time appreciative of the fact that he’s got a lot of love and support from all of us here and we’re all caring for him.”

Mackay’s parents remain in South Africa with Brumbies officials and are preparing to bring his body home.

Friend praised the doctors who worked to save Mackay’s life.

“His care has been tremendous, you couldn’t have asked for more there,” he said. “Our (team) doctor Warren McDonald’s been there the whole time with him.

“Nothing more could have been done for him unfortunately, he got this infection and that’s led to the cardiac arrest.”

While Friend said rugby was the last thing on everyone’s minds, the squad would meet on Tuesday for a voluntary prayer session before recommencing training on Wednesday.

“They’re a strong group, we are all going to deal with it our own way but we all know we are there together for each other,” he said.

The Brumbies will wear black armbands at the match in Mackay’s honour.

Mackay, a 1.96m (6ft 4in) lock forward, had been a regular on the international Rugby Sevens circuit for five years and had made six Super 14 appearances for the NSW Waratahs before switching to the Brumbies.

He played in two games this season, both on the South African tour, coming off the bench against the Lions in Johannesburg and against the Sharks the night before he was knocked down.


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