By RACHEL GRANT
THE Northern Eagles men's 20's have suffered enormously as a team in recent weeks.
Their son, their friend, their brother, their team mate, Kieran Luland was killed in a tragic car accident in late January.
Team mate Anthony Cowan was also involved in the accident, not long after he had attended the Australian Under 18's camp and the accident sent shock waves around the Australian Touch community.
The Eagles players, their team management, friends and family banded together, supporting their young men, as well as their mentor and assistant coach, Ricky Luland, Kieran's father.
On Monday night they honoured their lost team mate in the best way they could, with the 2006 National Touch League men's 20's title.
Wearing leg bands with the words 'Kieran Luland, 8, Kakadu', the crowd who had stayed for the final were witness to a team intensely focused and committed to each other, a team with a desire to honour their friend and a team that performed in such a way it brought tears to the eyes of all.
In honour of 'Kakadu' (Kieran's nickname) and his number 8 jersey, the Eagles amazed the crowd with their silky smooth skills and incredible pace.
With great support from family members and local viewers, the side capped their most difficult time together with an 8-5 title win.
For those who stayed to watch the presentations and the celebrations, they were like no other gone before them.
Anthony Cowan was named as player of the final, scoring two touchdowns and setting up several others, a remarkable feat considering the time he spent in hospital recovering from injuries sustained in the accident.
He also spoke as team captain, explaining to all how Kieran was the heart of their team, how they had played for him, that they knew he was there watching.
The depth of passion and respect these young men held for Kieran was made incredibly obvious.
It was fantastic to see the family and friends supporting their side, the young children following them around like heroes, the cameras and videos well in hand.
For the team, the meaning in each handshake and hug, the relief, the passion, the emotion as all let their guards down and hugged and cried together was an honour to witness.
For Ricky Luland, the moment was understandably emotional, as he hugged and spoke privately with all of the players.
It was the added emotion of caring deeply for the group of boys that have been playing and growing together for several years, seeing them develop as a team that can now call themselves national champions.
For coach David Scholes, himself a quiet achiever, the win was a result of the hard work of his team, the way they had pulled together and stuck by each other through the most difficult of times.
For the spectators, it was a privilege to see the hearts of these players, these coaches, these family and friends and it will never be forgotten.
It was an honour to the team and most importantly, it was an honour to Kieran.