TOWNS MOURN­ING

TRAGEDY STALKS SPORT­ING FAM­ILY

Kyabram Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUS UN­DER­WOOD, JESS GLED­HILL and OLIVER CAFFREY

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

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