THE heartbreaking pain of losing his best mate in a car accident didn’t stop rookie Sea Eagles winger Ben Shorter from playing a starring role in Manly’s Toyota Cup victory over the Broncos at Brookvale Oval on Tuesday night.
Manly Toyota Cup player Ben Shorter took the field just a day after losing his best mate, and played a starring role in the club's victory over Brisbane on Tuesday evening.
Shorter’s friend, who cannot be named at the request of his family, passed away early Monday morning after being struck by a car in Coffs Harbour late on Sunday night. The pair had been schoolyard mates since year 8.
Shorter was close to pulling out of the game and was given compassionate leave from training on Monday.
But the 20-year-old courageously took the field on Tuesday night, scoring two tries as the young Sea Eagles got home 30-16.
“It was pretty hard deciding whether or not to play, but I just had to put it behind me when I started playing,” Shorter admitted on Wednesday.
“My team-mates were all supportive. A couple said a few words but that was it.
“It’s one of those things - when you’re out there it’s the only time you don’t really think about it that much.
“It was definitely good to score the tries, it made things go from one of your saddest moments to a happier one.”
Shorter explained that the memory of his close mate stuck with him as he crossed the stripe in the 28th and 64th minutes.
“I definitely thought of him when I was walking back (after scoring the tries) before the kick-off,” he said.
“I just thought about him and his family. I just feel for his family and his little brother. To be honest, the whole thing about him going hasn’t kicked in that much.
“It probably won’t kick in until I go to uni and he’s not there.”
Manly Toyota Cup coach Dave Penna praised the courageous performance of his winger.
“I’m really proud of him - he was incredibly brave,” Penna said.
“I think it was a tough week for him. It’s hard for young blokes when you lose such a close friend.
“Ben couldn’t train on Monday night because he had to be with his friend’s family and go to the church.
“The boys let Ben handle it the best way he can, and that was to get out there and play some footy.”
Shorter said he and his mate had become closer in recent times as they undertook similar degrees at Sydney University.
The Valley United junior was also named players’ player on the night for his match-winning effort.
Shorter’s inspirational effort was the centrepiece of a brave Manly victory, achieved with seven first-choice players sitting on the sideline.
“To be honest, it was a massive effort from some of our guys,” Penna said.
“We were up against the wall and I had to ask some big questions of some of our younger players, but they were all outstanding.
“Brisbane had four or five NRL players in a full-strength squad, which made me even happier with our team.
“Our fullback, Sione Ala, played a full 80 minutes of A-grade football on Sunday and backed it up with another 80 for us and was fantastic. Nathan Clark and Haami Kerr-Tuaupiki were two others who did particularly well.”