Hundreds have gathered at a local school in Tasmania to pay their respects to teenage footballer Samara Whitney who died last week.
The 16-year-old shocked her football community in Burnie when she passed away on September 5.
In heartbreaking and tearful scenes at Marist Regional College, family, friends and teammates said farewell to their “pocket-rocket”.
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Her white coffin was lovingly decorated with football boots, jumpers, and a trophy with a football inside.
The youngster was a promising player for the Wynyard Football Club, north-west of Launceston, and was a member of the Tasmania Devils squad.
During the service, speakers were overcome with emotion, and choked up during their eulogies. Some of her teammates wore football jumpers.
Samara’s mother, Kym Smitheram, said her daughter was a “one-in-a-million”.
“You were not just my baby girl. You were my best friend, my greatest achievement, my mini-me,” Smitheram said.
“You were one-in-a-million.”
She said Samara was a beautiful person “inside and out”.
“I love you, our little pocket-rocket. Keep kicking those goals,” Smitheram said.
Samara’s coach Tim Grey said his player had courage and spirit.
“First game, seeing this little girl, knee-high to a grasshopper, up against some 17-year-olds who were fairly big … it was clear she had a special talent about her,” he said.
“Little did I know, over the years, I was about to see first-hand how special that talent was.”
Her boyfriend, Alister, said Samara was his inspiration.
“She was a bit of a role model to me,” he said.
“I found myself trying to improve myself. She was always trying to make me a better person in every way she could.
“Samara, if you’re listening, I miss you so much. I’d give anything to talk to you just one more time.
“Thank you so much for all the time we had together and all the memories we made. I’ll always remember you for the rest of my life. No matter what, you’ll always have a special place in my heart. I promise to make you proud.”
Friends close to Samara’s family banded together to help set up a GoFundMe page to help her parents, Smitheram and Seton Whitney, cover the funeral costs.
More than $30,000 was raised for the family in the funding effort.
“Tuesday September 5, 2023 is a day that all of us will never forget,” GoFundMe page organiser Sasha Burr wrote.
“It was the day we learnt the tragic news that Samara Whitney #2 was no longer with us.
“Time has since stood still for her family, friends, school community and sporting clubs as we all begin to grieve and navigate life without our special girl.”