School community remembers their mate Jake
AS A FOOTBALLER Jake Kedzlie led from the front and as a mate "he was a role model to many".
That's according to his schoolmates who yesterday spoke of their grief.
In a tribute to the gifted athlete who died from a serious head injury suffered during a weekend rugby league game, Toormina High students and teachers have shared their feelings and fond memories.
On Monday as his parents made the harrowing decision to switch off the life support, a sign in the school yard read: "Our love and thoughts are with Jake Kedzlie and his family".
Friends have since left a host of moving tributes on a Facebook page posted in his honour, while a paddle-out is being organised at Sawtell Beach next week.
Jake's grandfather, league great Tommy Raudonikis spoke on behalf of his daughter Corryn, Jake's mother.
"We just can't understand. He had the world ahead of him, and everybody loved him. It's unbelievable," Tommy said. "It's truly devastating. He was just a lovely young boy.
"Corryn has done it tough. They've got another week before the funeral so it's going to be pretty hard on them."
Jake, an aspiring five-eighth, had been offered a contract with the Wests Tigers, was a Group 2 best and fairest junior and star player in his Sawtell Panthers team and junior representative sides.
The on-field head injury that claimed his life at Rex Hardaker Oval in Saturday's match against the Kempsey Dragons was described by Raudonikis as a "freak incident".
Coach Alec Cullen said Jake's head collided with a player's knee as he went in to make a tackle.
"There was nothing in it at all," Alec said.
"I can't praise the other team enough for all their help when Jake went down. They acted like true champions. Jake was a brilliant footballer. He had the world at his feet, such a tragedy."
Tributes to Jake Kedzlie from his classmates and teachers:
"He was such a caring guy. If you were upset he was always the one to notice.
"So many younger boys looked up to him, wanting to be like him," Alysha Buckingham
"He was always so supportive to everyone, if you ever needed help with anything Jake would be there for you," Taylah King
"The thing I loved about him was that he always believed in me and encouraged me to always have faith in myself," Jake Window
"He was the best footballer I've played with, he was the best friend somebody could ever wish for. Jake was always here for a friend in need, if anyone doubted themselves," Riley Pryor
"He would always say you're beautiful and strong.
"Also to the guy who was in the tackle with Jake, don't feel as if it was your fault, it was an accident and you need to stay strong," Kiyah Kemp
"Jake was always respectful to students and teachers alike, he was known for his character and his sporting ability," - teacher Kiah Schwartz
"He was passionate, a true leader on and off the field. He got the boys organised and gave them guidance in football and in life. He showed maturity beyond his years," teacher and coach Gavin Vanderkly