The Parramatta Eels gather around the Tom Opacic center after his brother died in a suspicious motorcycle crash on Friday.
Opacic told Eels coach Brad Arthur he wanted to play Penrith on Friday night, just hours after learning of the death of his older brother Jakob – whom police consider suspicious.
Jakob, 28, died at the crash site shortly after 10 a.m. Friday morning, minutes after police believed he had left the scene of a heated argument near the Numinbah Correctional Center on the Gold Coast.
Detectives are investigating whether the incident may have been a hit and run and want to hear from anyone who saw the crash or witnessed the argument.
The crash happened about three kilometers from the prison as Jakob headed south along the Nerang Murwillumbah road.
One person has reportedly reported to police for the accident, but has not yet been charged.
Opacic was given the option to skip Friday’s clash against the Eels, before playing the game as his entire squad wore black armbands in their 13-12 loss.
“I spoke to him early today and suggested that he not play,” Arthur said.
“But he wasn’t taking it, he wanted to be around his pals and wanted to make a sacrifice for the team.
“I just think that as a club it shows where we are at.”
Parramatta outside full-back Opacic has signed a contract extension in recent weeks and remains in the eel biosecurity bubble.
He will have to leave that if he gets an exemption to cross the closed border into Queensland, but the eels have the bye next week.
“We are sad to learn today of the sudden passing of Jake Opacic, brother of Tom Opacic,” the club said in a statement.
“The Parramatta Eels express their thoughts and deepest condolences to the Opacic family.
“Tom was brave to play tonight’s game under painful circumstances, and we will support him during this difficult time.
“On behalf of everyone at the Club, our members, fans and partners, we extend our deepest condolences to Tom and his family.”
– with Scott Bailey from AAP