Ackerman family speak outside court

Ackerman mum: 'I hope it never happens to another family'

THE MOTHER of a rugby league player who died after an on-field collision says she hopes what the Ackerman family have been through "never happens to another family again".

James Ackerman, a Sunshine Coast Falcons player, and Francis Molo of the Norths Devils, collided at a match in Brisbane in June 2015. He died two days later.

An inquest into the 25-year-old's death was held at Brisbane Coroners Court this week.
 

James Ackerman’s father Michael, mum Sonya, and brother Andrew say the shoulder charge must be removed forever from rugby league.
James Ackerman’s father Michael, mum Sonya, and brother Andrew say the shoulder charge must be removed forever from rugby league. John Weekes

His mum Sonya Ackerman said shoulder-charges must be totally removed from rugby league.

"It kind of breaks our heart that it's been two years and there's no change in the game itself. It needs to go," Mrs Ackerman said outside court.

"We've got two little kids growing up without a father. It's pointless, it's just meaningless."

"It was all for James really," his brother Andrew said of the inquest.

"It's been very hard for both sides and obviously it's never going to get any easier. Maybe some time down the track, but it's still pretty raw for everyone."

"I don't think the penalties are severe enough," James' father Michael said, referring to shoulder-charges.

 

 The front cover of the order of service for the funeral of Sunshine Coast footballer James Ackerman, showing him with his children Olliver and Millie, at Sunshine Coast Stadium, Wednesday, July 1, 2015.
The front cover of the order of service for the funeral of Sunshine Coast footballer James Ackerman, showing him with his children Olliver and Millie, at Sunshine Coast Stadium, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. AAP

Neil Wharton, Queensland Rugby League head of football, gave evidence on Thursday morning.

He was appointed head of football in December 2014.

Safety issues around rugby league tackles, especially shoulder-charges had been under discussion since Monday.

Ackerman family lawyer Peter Boyce said the shoulder-charge was outlawed, "yet week in, week out, we still have people being charged with it".

He told Mr Wharton people could "make all the excuses in the world" but the fact was shoulder-charges were banned.
 

Brisbane Broncos player Francis Molo (middle) arrives at the Inquest into the death of Rugby League player James Ackerman at the Coroners Court in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 5, 2017. Mr Ackerman died during an Intrust Super Cup match between the Norths Devils and Sunshine Coast Falcons on June 20, 2015
Brisbane Broncos player Francis Molo (middle) arrives at the Inquest into the death of Rugby League player James Ackerman at the Coroners Court in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 5, 2017. Mr Ackerman died during an Intrust Super Cup match between the Norths Devils and Sunshine Coast Falcons on June 20, 2015

Mr Boyce also said the Ackerman family were kept in the dark about some aspects of league judicial processes involving Mr Molo after the collision.

"I think we're in new territory. This has never happened before," Mr Wharton said, referring to the Falcons player's death.

He said QRL reviewed infringement data for players and clubs, then would make recommendations on any possible rule changes to clamp down on illegal play.

Deputy state coroner John Lock must investigate the 2015 collision and determine if there might be ways to prevent a similar tragic incident in future.

He extended his condolences to the Ackermans and ordered lawyers to make written submissions by August 28. He will deliver his findings at a later date.

 

Ackerman inquest: QRL head to give evidence

THE INQUEST into the death of rugby league player and father of two James Ackerman is expected to conclude today.

Mr Ackerman, a Sunshine Coast Falcons player, and Francis Molo of the Norths Devils collided at a match in Brisbane in June 2015.

Mr Ackerman, 25, died two days later.

Queensland Rugby League head of football Neil Wharton has arrived at Brisbane Coroners Court and is expected to be the final witness to give evidence.

He was appointed head of football in December 2014.

Mr Wharton said QRL engaged its "critical incident plan" after Mr Ackerman was knocked out and the game called off.

He said QRL reviewed its processes annually, including any recommendations made around changes to the game.

Safety issues around rugby league tackles have been under discussion since Monday.

Deputy state coroner John Lock must investigate the 2015 collision and determine if there might be ways to prevent a similar tragic incident in future.

James Ackerman's family Sonya, Saraa and Michael Ackerman at the unveiling of the trophy in his name and honour.  Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
James Ackerman's family Sonya, Saraa and Michael Ackerman at the unveiling of the trophy in his name and honour. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily John McCutcheon

 

Touch judge Steve Kanowski and Falcons player Ryan Hansen have described the tackle on Mr Ackerman as a shoulder-charge, which is banned in the sport's rules.

The role of police and of league authorities after the incident was also discussed.

On Monday, the inquest heard league authorities claimed to have a "zero tolerance" approach to shoulder-charges.

But Mr Ackerman's friend Tyson Brough, a referee, said players were rarely sent off for the offence.

On Tuesday, the court heard from police, who decided not to prosecute Mr Molo.

And on Wednesday, Mr Molo gave evidence. Sometimes fighting back tears, he was not persuaded he had committed a shoulder-charge but admitted he could have tackled the Falcons player differently.

"I look back know and think it was stupid," he said.

The coroner is expected to deliver his findings at a later date.


-NewsRegional

News Corp Australia


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