HERVEY Bay Seagulls centre Brock Eldridge knows all too well about true pain and courage.
The 20-year-old was at his mother's side when she died at home from blood clots in her heart during in the early hours of January 8.
Michelle, 53, was a beautiful woman, a proud mother and Eldridge's biggest fan, having missed just two of his games since he first laced up the boots for the Seagulls at seven.
She was also a much-loved figure at the club having worked as a first aid officer for 10 years.
Speaking ahead of his first match at Stafford Park since the death of his mother, Eldridge admitted the pain was still raw.
"It was a shock to us," he said.
"It hurt and still does.
"She's my number one fan and was a big support for me.
"We were really close.
"I miss her every day."
It's a hard thing for a young man to open his heart and speak out his grief, but when Eldridge starts talking about his favourite memories of his mother, a warm feeling washes over him.
"The first time I made Wide Bay in under-12s, that was a pretty big moment for her," he said.
"She was always happy every time I made rep sides and whenever I scored a try she would be the one yelling out most congratulating me."
After a breakout season with the Seagulls last year, Eldridge had intended to leave home to try his luck with the Sunshine Coast Falcons' under-20 side, before his mother's death put his plans on hold.
Originally he was going to quit football for the rest of the year, but returned to the Seagulls earlier this month to help solve the club's injury crisis.
Memories of his mother will no doubt be at the front of his mind when he lines up tomorrow against the reigning Bundaberg Rugby League premiers Western Suburbs.
Eldridge said it would be his mother's wish for him to be on the paddock and he will be doing his best to turn in an inspiring effort to lift his team to a much-needed win.
"Mum will be watching down on me and telling me to keep going," he said.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her."
A fortnight ago in Childers, Eldridge took the field for the first time this season after just two training sessions.
While he was rusty, Eldridge showed enough to suggest he was on his way back to the form that earned him the players' player award last year.
Committed to finish the season with the Seagulls, Eldridge said being back at the club and around his teammates has re-ignited his dream of playing in the Intrust Super Cup.
Hervey bay Seagulls v Western Suburbs on Saturday at Stafford Park at 5pm
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