TRAGEDY STALKS SPORTING FAMILY
TRAGEDY has devastated both Kyabram and Tongala after close relatives of one of the region’s best-known sporting families were killed in a car crash on Saturday.
Joe and Jeanette Baggow, 69 and 61 respectively, were in town for a family birthday party and on their way home to Queensland when their car collided with another vehicle on the Murray Valley Hwy.
Kyabram footballer Kayne Pettifer and Tongala netballers Sarah and Abby Pettifer were all set to play in finals when they were told of the accident, which happened just after 8am.
The girls withdrew from their matches and Kayne only played after his grandfather spent more than an hour with him encouraging him to play and “do the family proud”.
And he did, keeping it separate until the final siren when his mother Sally and other family members who had come to support him went onto the field and embraced him.
Incredibly the family had just lost another uncle in a car crash in Queensland barely two weeks ago.
And the Pettifers had lost their husband and father Mick to a car crash near Wagga in 2009. Tongala A grade coach Alicia White broke down in tears as she tried to describe the raw emotion of her players and the club’s supporters.
She had bravely held it together to lead the teams – even though they both lost – and did not give in to her emotions until after the game when she had a chance to reflect on the full horror of the day.
As a playing coach she had a duty to the rest of the team to be composed and a leader both on and off the court, especially missing two of her most experienced players. “It’s just really hard today,” she said. “Those Pettifer girls have been through hell and back and to have this today just made it even harder.”
“Those Pettifer girls have been through hell and back and to have this today just made it even harder.”
White said the news had rocked the entire club and it was a tribute to their absent teammates and their family that got the other 12 players on the court.
The crash also struck at the heart of Kyabram’s record-breaking undefeated seniors in what will be remembered as one of the more courageous efforts in Goulburn Valley Football League history.
“I wasn’t going to play, I thought it’d be too much, but I spent an hour and a half with my pa and he told me to just go and play and do the family proud,” Pettifer said yesterday.
“I went to the game with Danny Kent, my brother-in-law and assistant coach, but he was great for me and really supported me well.
“It was very tough in the warm up, but once the boys got around me and I kicked the first goal of the game, it was a bit of a dream start.
“But it was emotionally draining by the end and I’m just glad we got the win.”
Pettifer said he was grateful to everyone who had supported his family in tough circumstances.
“We’re (his family) all going okay, it’s still just utter shock and disbelief,” Pettifer said.
“I lost my dad and my cousin in a car crash in 2009, so it’s just hard to comprehend what’s happened and that tragic accidents have affected both sides of my family.
“I had spent Friday with them (aunt and uncle) as they had come down for a 90th birthday and they were just going to head back home again on Saturday morning.
“Pete Croxford, the (Kyabram) president and the whole club at Kyabram have been great. We’ve had a lot of messages and people sending through their condolences to check up on the family.
“I also want to thank Seymour Football Club (Saturday’s opponents) as well for the respect they showed and the support from the whole footy community is much appreciated by the whole family.”
Kyabram coach Paul Newman was gutted when told on his way to the Rochester Oval on Saturday morning of the fatal accident.
A teary Newman had already ruled Sam Sheldon out of the game with a slight hamstring strain and was even contemplating playing himself if Pettifer felt he could not do the team justice by taking his place in the lineup.
Newman said the club would give as much support to the former AFL player as possible.
“It’s unbelievably courageous to turn up and play, he was obviously pretty distressed in the morning so it’s a very gutsy effort,” he said.
Rochester and Kyabram football clubs have played for the Mick Pettifer Memorial Shield since 2010, in honour of Kayne’s father.
“He’s (Kayne) been super for us, but the family has been through so much and they just don’t deserve it and they somehow keep getting the tough breaks in life.
“Everyone will keep supporting him and we’ll get around him as much as we can in this next little period.
“It was all pretty raw, but he was always confident to me that he’d play,” Newman said.
Pettifer’s resilience was on show early, as he kicked the first goal of the game for the Bombers in just the second minute.
All Kyabram players were wearing black armbands as a sign of respect.
An incredible moment came in the last quarter when Pettifer was tucked away in the pocket, but managed to put through a check side goal from the most difficult of angles.
The Pettifers’ aunt and uncle, described as a “big-hearted” couple, were on their way home to Mackay in Queensland after coming to Tongala for a family celebration.
They had left for home early when their SUV seemingly turned into the path of a 4WD towing a boat at the intersection of Murray Valley Hwy and Scobie Rd just after 8am.
Another of their nieces, Kate Cutts, said the couple had left early to beat the traffic.
“We’re all a little bit lost and we don’t know what to do without them,” Ms Cutts said.
“It’s very out of character because Joe was just a careful driver.”
The much-loved couple had three children and six grandchildren – but they took in many others.
“They might have had three kids but they raised probably 33 more,” Ms Cutts said.
“They were big-hearted people who took everybody and anybody in.
“They lived their lives for everyone else around them and their family.” Tributes flowed online. “Such genuine people, you will be very missed by many,” a loved one wrote.
Five people in the eastbound 4WD — two men and a woman aged in their 40s and two teens — sustained minor injuries.
Safety features in the recently-purchased vehicle including multiple airbags were credited with protecting the occupants from serious harm.
Anyone with information or anyone who witnessed the accident is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
❝I wasn’t going to play, I thought it’d be too much, but I spent an hour and a half with my pa and he told me to just go and play and do the family proud❞ — Kayne Pettifer