Junior team named after James Ackerman

JAMES Ackerman, the rugby league player who died in 2015 from injuries sustained in a tackle, has been immortalised by one of Queensland’s biggest clubs.

The Redcliffe Dolphins, where Ackerman played 95 games for the Dolphins between 2008 and 2014 from colts to Queensland Cup, has named one of its junior teams in his honour.

Dolphins general manager — football operations Grant Cleal said the club named its junior teams after past players and administrators.

“Ackers’ story has touched the entire rugby league community and as a former Dolphin we wanted to honour his legacy,” Cleal said.

“We’ve named one of our under-8s teams the James Ackerman Team in tribute to this former Dolphin and great bloke.

“Ackers will never be forgotten at the Dolphins so having a junior team bearing his name is a fitting tribute.”

Ackerman’s mum Sonya said the gesture was “very special” to the family.

“I burst into tears when the club told me,” she said.

“Redcliffe is really where James’ football career started. Grant Cleal signed him when he was in Year 12 and he started playing colts the following year.

“They believed in him.

“To have them name a team after him is unbelievable. We are very moved; there are no words to show our appreciation.

“We never expected that to happen.”

Redcliffe Dolphins president Bob Jones said he hoped junior Dolphins for many years would learn about the player and man Ackerman was.

“For those of us who knew him, he will stay in our hearts for a very long time,” Jones said.

The Ackerman family also donated headgear to the team — an initiative they have done with all clubs Ackerman played for.

Football operations manager Steve Crawford said the naming of the team and connection via the headgear had a “real meaning to it”.

“James Ackerman played for the Dolphins for a number of years and there is a special family connection,” Crawford said.

The headgear,launched last week and worn by Johnathan Thurston at the Auckland Nines on the weekend, was designed by James’ younger brother Tom.

The headgear features the number 8, which has become synonymous with Ackerman’s legacy.

It was the number he wore the day he tragically died and that jersey number has been retired at the Sunshine Coast Falcons where he played.

Printed on the blue headgear — Ackerman’s favourite colour — is his handprint, which his two young children Olliver and Milly painted when their dad was in ICU.

It also has the DonateLife logo, which aligns with the Ackerman family’s campaign to promote awareness for organ and tissue donation

By Jamie-Leigh Mason – February 7, 2017
Article courtesy of the Redcliffe & Bayside Herald