Navy's Rugby League representative side, the Navy Tridents, ended a successful week of training and public engagements in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, by defeating Combined Wagga RAAF/Army 24-6 on 17 September.
The Leading Seaman Physical Training Instructor Damien Rex Memorial Rugby League Game was dedicated to the memory of a former Wagga Wagga local and Tridents player who died in tragic circumstances in June 2015.
Royal Australian Navy Rugby League President, Lieutenant Commander Darren Nembach, said the performance, effort and dedication on the field, with only two reserves, was a true tribute to Leading Seaman Rex, who always played hard and was uncompromising on the field.
“The game was an important event for the Navy Tridents and Damien’s family,” he said.
“It provided us with the opportunity to celebrate his life, on and off the rugby league field, and provide closure for both the family and Navy Rugby League.
“The untiring efforts of Damien’s father, Peter, team manager, Warrant Officer Mark Donlan, and the support from the local community and the Air Force and Army ensured a successful event.”
Tridents captain Able Seaman Marine Technician Jack Le Prou, of HMAS Adelaide, was proud of his team’s efforts and said the best player of the game was hooker Lieutenant Tom McKenzie from HMAS Choules.
“But I’d say the whole team were the best players,” he said.
“They were fantastic - everyone put in a 100 per cent effort and played with their heart on their sleeve - they did Rexy proud.”
Able Seaman Le Prou said it was important for the Tridents to come to Wagga and play at Leading Seaman Rex’s home ground.
“It just shows the community of Wagga that he was a big part of the Navy and a big part of our team and we really care about him,” he said.
Leading Seaman Rex’s father, Peter Rex, said it was “absolutely fantastic” the Tridents had come to play in Wagga Wagga.
“Damien was born and raised in Wagga Wagga and lived here until he was 16,” he said.
“I remember putting him on the bus when he was just 17, to train in the Navy at HMAS Cerberus.
“I couldn’t have been more proud than I am today of what the Navy, Air Force and Army, have done as a combined Defence Force to honour Damien’s memory.”
Mr Rex said people never completely healed from something like suicide.
“It’s something you go through in your life, what nobody plans for - nobody plans to bury their son, it’s always going to be living in my memory every day.
“So these days like today are so important as part of the healing process, and the Navy, the Army, the RAAF are all to be congratulated for what they’ve done.”
Mr Rex presented the ‘Spirit of Rexy’ award - the player who best played in the spirit of Leading Seaman Rex - to Lieutenant Tom McKenzie, and the Peter Rex Encouragement Award for untiring effort and devotion in support of the team to Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Lloyd Gray, of HMAS Kuttabul.
Lieutenant Commander Nembach said the Wagga community had assisted with both the game and the visit.
“The support displayed by the Wagga community to get behind the event was obvious at the game with some 300 plus in attendance, as was the support provided by the Country Rugby League of New South Wales.
“The visit to the hospital and high school were well received, with a young girl in hospital saying she hasn’t had so much fun in ages,” he said.
“During the high school visit one of the students said to the Tridents he wants to join the ADF when he graduates but having the Navy Tridents visit the school helped him make up his mind to join the Navy.”