Too sad. Just too sad.

Jackson Marsh, captain of the Pembroke first eleven, backman for the first eighteen, is doing what many seventeen year old lads would during the school holidays. He is having a kick of the footy with his mates. He loves his cricket, he loves his footy, he loves his mates. It is an overcast July day with little warning of what is to follow. A blinding flash of lightning and a deafening crack leaves Jackson lifeless on the ground.

His mates rush to him and begin CPR trying to breathe life back to him. The ambulance arrives. He’ll be right now, they’ll know what to do. They take him to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where he is ventilated in intensive care. He is alive, he’ll be alright.

The following week, everyone is back at school, the news comes through. Jackson hasn’t made it. He has died. There is an outpouring of grief- his family, his mates, the school. How can life be so cruel to take a young man entering the prime of his life? The sadness and loss is overwhelming.

Pembroke decide to go ahead with the football match against Immanuel College on Saturday, but number four won’t be running out of the backlines this week. We arrive at the game during the last quarter of the seconds. It is quiet. The parents arrive, but today greet each other with hugs and tears. The air is thick, the atmosphere is gut-wrenching. The siren sounds to end the seconds game.

The Pembroke first eighteen run out onto the ground. There is an eerie silence. Parents today are unsure how to respond. Applause breaks out. A long loud and meaningful applause. Today really means something. The opposing captains meet to toss the coin. The Pembroke captain breaks into tears. This is all too much, too hard, too painful. He was there when Jackson was struck by lightning. He helped try to revive him. The Immanuel captain hugs him and pats him on the back.

The teams line up arm in arm, not facing each other but along side each other. The seconds teams are there too. The Immanuel chaplain speaks. He speaks of finding peace. He says a prayer followed by a minute’s silence. The Pembroke boys are in tears as they remember their mate. They know he won’t be back. There is large crowd of Pembroke students in full Pembroke uniform. They all have number four taped to their blazers. They are in tears. The parents are in tears. I’m in tears. How can life be so cruel.

The game starts. The boys play with guts and passion. There is some cheering as marks are taken and goals are kicked. It’s like a normal game but this is no normal game of footy. There’s a bit of a scuffle. An Immanuel player grabs a Pembroke lad by the jumper but  just lets him go. He can’t add to his pain. He knows that. You can see it in his eyes.

The game ends but there is no victory today. This game is much bigger than the result. Immanuel form a guard of honour and applaud the Pembroke lads from the field. They sense how difficult the game has been but the boys needed to get through it. After the game, the players, now in school uniform, gather on the oval. The Pembroke students from the crowd join them. There is quiet chatter and reflection. Perhaps this is the start of the road to finding peace. The football game was played and life goes on. Perhaps this is the start of the healing, but there will always be scars. Rest in peace Jackson.  May your family and your school family also find peace.



  1. Dear David, I am so sorry to hear about your, and your teams loss. I’m glad you wrote about it. The writing and talking and playing and being around each other helps with the healing. Beautifully written, we are there with you and understand.

    Life is so random


  2. I have been there, a young soul taken from us far too young by an accident that you could never predict (and this incident has brought back memories for me).
    Watching on as young men try to contemplate what it all means to them and realising you are amongst them is a brutal realisation.
    I know from my experience it will continue to play at the back of the mind for a long time to come, sometimes when least expected it will resurface.
    I also know that the young men will feel a camaraderie for the rest of their life. They will also remember those that supported them.
    And, importantly, they will move on but not forget.

    My best wishes to all of those who knew the young man and are hurting at this time.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thank you for writing this Peice David I had the pleasure of coaching Jacko when he was 11 just a shocking tragedy I sit on the memorial seat at Kensington Oval during
    Pembroke Old Scholars Cricket Training and reflect on Jackson and life

  4. Fantastic Article. Puts things in perspective.

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