BRAD Fittler can nonetheless see his Australian captain Mal Meninga, schooner in hand, likely for walks in the direction of him inside that Sydney nightclub.
The 12 months was 1992.
And Freddy, nonetheless a Kangaroo starter, a little one only months on from both equally similarly his adolescents and a Winfield Cup premiership with Penrith, was preparing for what must undoubtedly be another spherical of beers from his captain.
“But then,” Fittler statements, recalling the next a hulking appropriate arm arrived up and all around his shoulder, “Mal described to me how Ben Alexander skilled just died.”
And from there, completely, Freddy struggles to occur throughout the text and phrases. “I was … ahh … stunned,” he statements, softly.
“Completely stunned. I’m standing there amid all my Australian teammates in this jap suburbs nightclub … It was late, way as well — completely shortly soon after midnight — and I was just in shock.
“Over the subsequent pair of periods, it severely felt like a further human being picked up our small area local community of Penrith and shook it.” It nonetheless does.
It has been 26 numerous many years owing to the point a vehicle incident tragically took the way of living of his exceptional mate Ben ‘‘Boods’’ Alexander, a escalating Penrith footballer and far more youthful brother of premiership hero Greg Alexander. And Fittler’s soreness is nonetheless an unseen, eternal scar.
Which is why the NSW Origin mentor has agreed to entrance the Knock-On Impact — a Issue Govt initiative highlighting not only the stressing spate of fatalities on point out roadways, but the considerable consequences just about every unique reduction has on its area local community.
This is a soreness Fittler nonetheless lifetime. Comparable supply for fellow league legends these as Greg Alexander, Mark Geyer, even Panthers GM Phil Gould, who coached Penrith to that premiership only months forward of Alexander, aged 20, was killed.
“I will not overlook at that precise time, we all felt bullet proof,” Fittler remembers.
“As a crew, we’d rarely at any time dealt with reduction like that.
“Ben’s demise, it severely shook us. I know separately, Ben and I, we … umm … we used to crank out all-all around a ton together. We were being getting just two youngs blokes driving to education and learning, the flicks, bowling, whichever.
“We expended a ton of time with just about every other in the vehicle.”
All of which leaves Fittler carrying both equally similarly soreness, and fears. Like would he have been driving shotgun that evening time his mate, shortly soon after a pair of beers at Penrith Leagues, took off for an extra get alongside one another? “If I was not with the Australian crew, we would’ve been hanging out with just about every other, yeah,” Fittler statements.
“But which is not the truth of the matter, is it? I was absent with the Kangaroos, so it is what it is. It is just tragic.’’
And which is why Fittler is now encouraging all motorists to commit a pair of seconds imagining about just about every single movement they will make.
“There are persons significantly excess accredited to converse on this than me, but I do know 1st-hand that when everyone passes absent on our roadways, there is a terrific great pal even now still left guiding practical experience like I did,” he talked about. “And that soreness, there is no capsule for it. There is basically practically nothing.”