James Ackerman's legacy lives on in cup
THE months since Saraa Ackerman lost her husband have been a painful blur, eased by steady support from the Sunshine Coast community.
Rugby league player James Ackerman's death from an injury sustained in a tackle on June 20 last year took a much-loved husband, son to Michael and Sonya, father to Olliver and Milly and brother to Andrew and Thomas.
They have made it their mission to ensure his legacy is remembered across the Coast and further afield.
The inaugural James Ackerman Memorial Cup match between the Sunshine Coast Falcons and the Redcliffe Dolphins this weekend is one of the ways his family's mission will be practised.
"For me it is more about Ollie and Milly and the things they have to look back on when they are older because for them it is going to be about the stories everyone else tells them," Saraa said.
She said Olliver, 4, had shown maturity beyond his years in understanding his father's death.
Saraa said Milly also understood but still found it hard when she saw other children with their fathers, prompting her to ask where her dad was.
"It kills me," Saraa said.
"It rips your heart right out."
She said experiencing loss was much different to the way she thought it might be.
"It has really been a blur.
"It is a big shock to your system."
James is spoken of every day in the home.
"We do a lot of reminiscing with photos and videos."
James' mother Sonya Ackerman said everything her family did was for James' children.
"We like to be involved as obviously James' legacy is very important to us so nobody forgets who he was or how we lost him," Sonya said.
She described the time since her son's death as "absolute hell".
"It still feels like it happened yesterday.
"It's just hard to grasp you could lose your life playing rugby league."
She said support from the rugby league community had blown her family away and made special mention of lawyer Peter Boyce for his guidance since the days after James' death.
"He has really been our angel."
Her husband Michael Ackerman said he still enjoyed rugby league but found it hard to watch heavy contact where players ended up in dangerous positions.
He wanted to see more education for players in regards to on-field safety.
"They are bigger and stronger than they have ever been," Michael said.
The family encouraged the Sunshine Coast community to get along to the first memorial match, to be held at Sunshine Coast Stadium from 6pm tomorrow.
A special memorial to James will be unveiled in what is expected to be an emotional ceremony at 4pm.