THE local sporting community has been rocked by the sudden death of much-loved Griffith Blacks player Ben Groat.
Club president Clint Robertson, who coached and played with the 26-year-old for two years, said shocked team mates wanted to pay tribute to a big man with an even bigger heart.
Police are preparing a report for the coroner after Mr Groat died unexpectedly overnight on Sunday.
“Everyone loved Groaty. He was a gentle giant,” Mr Robertson said.
“He was a genuine person who never took anything too seriously.
“Groaty was one of those big men, who was quiet off the field but when he got on the paddock he played with aggression and with all his heart, you couldn’t have asked for a better player.
“It’s a big loss for us all and he will be sadly missed simply for his greatness.”
The club has offered heartfelt condolences to Ben’s parents Peter and Julie and his brothers Tom and Matt, who is a West Tigers player.
This Saturday the club has requested all teams participating in the grand final wear black armbands in a show of respect. A guard of honour will also be formed for the women’s sevens and a minutes silence held.
The powerhouse Griffith Blacks second rower was a product of the Griffith Blacks Junior Rugby program and was one of the first players to move through from U14s to the senior grades. He also played junior rugby league for the Griffith Waratahs before moving to Wagga to play with the CSU Reddies.
Plans are already in place to establish the Ben Groat Memorial Trophy next year.
The Griffith Blacks Facebook page has been swamped by tributes to “Groaty” from heartbroken team mates.
Just a few include “Big man, big heart, big loss. A pleasure to have known you and played along side you. RIP bud.”
“For the few years that I knew him well, he was always the one making you laugh, he’d be the first to lend a hand and was the nicest bloke. He made me feel welcome in the Black’s community and I’ll never forget everything he did for me. Groaty you’re a great man and I’ll always remember you.”
“To the smiling assassin, you will be sadly missed mate, I am honoured to play rugby with you and know you on and off the field. You definitely were one of a kind and your smile will be left in our hearts forever. I will be thinking of you every time I put a jumper on, the Griffith Rugby Club will never be the same. Thinking of you in our prayers mate.
“Been a great couple of years playing along side you bro, going to miss your mongrel and humble attitude on and off the field.”
Mr Groat also played for the CSU Reddies from 2007 to 2009 and will be sorely missed by the mates he made there.
Club president Andrew Bedford said Mr Groat played all grades and was one of their best forwards during those years.
“He has been a part of our club ever since,” Mr Bedford said.
“Even though he only played two seasons with us, he quickly became a club favourite and formed many strong friendships which were still as strong as ever many years later.
“Our club is shocked and devastated by the news and are all thinking of the Groat family at this time.
“We will never forget our mate Groat and he will be hugely missed by everyone at our club.”