NRL star Boyd Cordner was seen struggling to hold back tears during a touching tribute to his cousin who died after collapsing on a footy field.
The Sydney Roosters and Newcastle Knights held a minute’s silence before kicking off on Saturday night for 19-year-old Joel Dark, who died on Friday.
All members of both the Knights and Roosters wore black armbands in honour of the young player throughout the game on Saturday.
Joel suffered a seizure after being knocked to the head during his debut first-grade fame for Newcastle Central on Sunday September 6.
Joel ‘Squid’ Dark, 19, died in hospital on Friday, five days after he suffered a head knock during a tackle on the footy field for his debut first grade game
A fellow player gave Joel CPR and he was rushed to John Hunter Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery and was in a critical condition for five days.
But he died on Friday morning, two days before his 20th birthday, after ‘fighting with all his might’.
Cordner got permission to leave the Rosters’ biosecurity bubble to be by his cousin’s side and had to fight back tears during the minute of silence.
Hearts broke for the Roosters captain as he bravely took to the field before being forced off after copping another head knock.
It is the third head knock of the NRL season for the 28-year-old, who was taken from the field for a HIA after 24 minutes and did not return on Saturday night.
Worryingly, he has already missed six games with recurring symptoms after copping a concussion against Melbourne in round eight and again at training three weeks later.
NRL star Boyd Cordner was seen struggling to hold back tears during a touching tribute to his cousin who died after collapsing on a footy field
Mr Dark (on right) is pictured in his Facebook profile picture with his sibling Kurt
He stayed down for several seconds before he left the field, where Roosters doctor Tom Longworth made the decision to err on the side of caution and keep him off the field.
It ended the devastating week for Cordner as he mourns the death of Joel.
‘The assessment was really good, (Cordner) was quite clear,’ Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.
‘But the time off the had plus also the week that he’s had, that was a really smart call (from Longworth) just to say take a breath and don’t go back on.
‘It’s an incredibly tough week, for Joel and family and the extended family.’
Lifelong friends of Joel, Paul Worboys and Chris Corcoran broke the tragic news to loved ones after raising $100,000 to help his family through the tough time.
Joel (back left) is the cousin of Boyd Cordner (front row), the Kangaroos, Sydney Roosters and NSW captain. Above, they celebrate Cordner’s Kangaroos’ 2017 World Cup victory, where he scored the winning try
‘Hug the ones you love today,’ they said.
In a statement on Friday afternoon, the NSW Rugby League said officials were ‘saddened to hear of the tragic passing today of Central Newcastle player Joel Dark.’
‘Joel, 19, had been in a critical condition in John Hunter Hospital since he collapsed on field during a Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League First Grade match against Western Suburbs at St John Oval on Sunday 6 September.’
The game was stopped after the horrific accident, with Mr Dark suffering the blow when he was tackled.
Local newspaper The Newcastle Herald reported that his dad had given him his jersey before he ran out on Sunday – Father’s Day.
All Newcastle Rugby League fixtures for this weekend were postponed out of respect for the young man’s family.
Dark is the cousin of Sydney Roosters, NSW and Australia captain Boyd Cordner, who reportedly this week described his injured relative as one of the ‘best blokes you will ever meet’
Joel suffered a seizure after being knocked to the head during his debut first-grade fame for Newcastle Central on Sunday September 6
Cordner paid tribute to his cousin, known to friends as ‘Squid’, as ‘one of the best blokes you will ever meet’ in a social media post this week.
A social media photo shows Joel celebrating with his cousin following the Kangaroos’ victory at the 2017 World Cup.
Mr Worboys and Mr Corcoran had this week spearheaded a GoFundMe fundraiser for Joel’s family which had sparked an outpouring of support.
A young autistic girl even donated her pocket money to the cause.
But Joel’s friends broke the tragic news of his death on Friday.
‘It’s with great sadness that we are bringing you this update, after a few days of fighting with all his might, Joel wasn’t able to overcome his terrible brain injury and he left this world this morning,’ Mr Worboys and Mr Corcoran said.
‘Obviously everyone is still in shock and we would ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this time.
‘Hug the ones you love today’.