Omens are right for Gillett for NRL semi - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Omens are right for Gillett for NRL semi

Wayne Heming 22/09/2011 02:26:18 PM Comments (0)

Jenny Stirling could not be prouder of Matt Gillett if he were her own son.

Gillett, who'll play five-eighth for Brisbane in place of injured skipper Darren Lockyer against Manly in Friday night's NRL preliminary final, is as close to her as a son could be.

He was best mates with her son, Todd Parnell, a promising young footballer.

They played together for the Bribie Island Warrigals and shared a dream of one day being teammates in the NRL.

Parnell's life was snatched from him tragically, aged just 22, after allegedly being king hit during a fight outside the Warrigals' Bongaree clubrooms on July 25, 2009.

Gillett was rocked by the death of his good mate, as was the shattered Bribie Island rugby league community.

Parnell's death, though, proved to be a turning point in Gillett's life, on and off the football field.

Unable to attract interest from NRL clubs, Gillett changed his attitude following his mate's death, playing his way into a contract with Brisbane on the back of an outstanding Queensland Cup season with Norths in 2009.

He dedicated his 2010 NRL debut season with Brisbane to his close mate and honoured his memory by being crowned 2010 NRL rookie of the year.

Parnell's mother believes fate has played a hand in Gillett playing in the No.6 position against Manly on Friday night.

"Todd's favourite position was five-eighth," an emotional Stirling told AAP when asked about Gillett's big night in front of his proud parents Peter and Debbie.

While Gillett's success is a source of joy for Stirling, it's also a painful reminder of her son Todd, a talented young player who was contracted to the Broncos by the club's legendary talent scout, Cyril Connell.

"There's barely a second goes by when I don't think about my gorgeous, handsome young man," she said.

"Matt playing in the (No.6) position Todd loved so much has to be an omen.

"Todd was born on December 6. Six was his lucky number."

Parnell played five-eighth in a club game for the Warrigals only hours before he died.

"He wore the No.6 jumper that night. I still have it," Stirling said.

"I watched him play, he had a wonderful game.

"He went home, got changed and went back to a 21st party at the club and was killed later that night."

While Parnell was a tireless, dedicated trainer, Gillett's focus wasn't always on football before he linked with the Broncos.

Gillett was blessed with natural ability but didn't always push himself at training.

"Matt always had the potential but didn't always take training that seriously whereas Todd was just diligent. He never, ever, ever would miss it," said Parnell's mother.

"Todd would often tell Matt how good he could be as a player if he'd only apply himself to training and commit himself more.

"I think girls were a little more important to him than football at one stage," she said.

"But when it happened (Todd's death), it inspired Matt to give it his all.

"I'm so proud of Matty, he's such a wonderful person, so humble and so reserved."

It kind of reminds you a little of the player he's replacing on Friday night.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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