There’s a great story behind every AFL player’s first game, but the circumstances surrounding young Docker Max Duffy’s debut made Saturday night particularly special.
The 21-year-old who kicked two goals in his club’s loss to the Cats revealed after the match that he’d be donating half his match payment to HeartKids Western Australia, in honour of his childhood friend, Stephen Rigg, who passed away from a heart problem in 2011.
HeartKids is a charity dedicated to providing support, encouragement and hope to families of children with Heart Disease, while raising awareness and vital funding into the causes of this chronic disease.
Rigg was just 17 years old when he suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on a cricket pitch while playing for the Perth Cricket Club.
Eight days later on the 24th of January 2011, Rigg passed away in his father Phil’s arms at Royal Perth Hospital. The number 24 Duffy wears for Fremantle signifies the day his best mate passed.
Visibly emotional after the game on Saturday, Duffy said he’s proud to have been able to raise awareness and support an important cause.
“I’m proud to have done it. It’s been a long build-up but I’m proud to have played and doing it for him is very good,” Duffey said.
“To have Phil here tonight supporting me means a lot.”
Phil Rigg made the trip to Geelong and praised Duffy’s decision to donate his match payment on behalf of his son.
“Max and Stephen had been great mates all the way through and Max kept on coming into the hospital and seeing him and wishing him well,” Rigg said.
“Max has asked me if it was okay to donate half his match fee to the HeartKids of WA. For a young man of Max’s age of 21, it is just a phenomenal thing to do.”
Rigg also suggested Duffy taking the number 24 was a humbling tribute to Stephen.
“When he took the number 24, it was to signify the day my son passed away and for a young bloke of Max’s age to come up and do that has just blown us away.
“I’m so very thankful for it.”
To find out more about HeartKids, or to make a donation, click here.