Queensland State of Origin legends Alfie Langer and Kevin Walters are among those who have gathered to farewell local footballer James Ackerman.
Hundreds of mourners have filled the Sunshine Coast Stadium for the funeral for the 25-year-old father of two, who died in a Brisbane hospital last Monday as a result of a head injury sustained during a Queensland Cup match two days earlier.
Also in the crowd are NRL chief executive Dave Smith, current Maroons captain Cameron Smith and Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
The Storm is the NRL club affiliated with Ackerman’s team, the Sunshine Coast Falcons, and the stadium is their home ground.
Smith missed a training session on the Gold Coast on Wednesday morning to pay his respects to Ackerman, a former Brisbane Broncos under-20s player.
Ackerman’s passing sparked an outpouring of grief from all corners of the rugby league community for the hard-nosed front-rower, who was well liked by teammates and admired by opponents.
The tackle that felled him is yet to be reviewed by the Queensland Rugby League with the other player involved, Francis Molo, not in a state to front the judiciary or resume playing.
A big screen has been set up where highlights from his playing career and tributes from rugby league identities will be played, along with a photographic tribute from his family.
At the end of the service, Ackerman will be taken on a final lap of honour around the stadium, passing through a guard of honour formed around the touchline by players from all the clubs he represented.