Hundreds gather to mourn the loss of Seagulls club stalwart
TEARS, laughter and heartfelt tributes were heard by hundreds of people who gathered at Tweed's Seagulls Club yesterday to mourn and celebrate the life of rugby league stalwart Tom Searle.
Tom, 73, died on June 22 in Sydney following a year-long battle with brain cancer.
His service was ticketed-only due to COVID-19 restrictions and was filled to capacity with 400 people attending.
It was rich with emotion as stories of Tom's football career and social life were shared by his family, friends and former colleagues.
Tom's coffin was draped with football jumpers from his former clubs.
His son, Titans founder Michael Searle, described his father as his best friend and hero.
Michael joined his father on a trip back to his hometown at Tamworth and then onto Manly to visit good friend and former Titans coach John Cartwright just days before he died.
He told the room his father had a feeling his time might almost be up but Tom remained dignified and showed plenty of courage and inner strength until the end.
"It was wonderful to be able to spend the time with him. It was hard to see him struggle, but at no stage did he have fear in his eyes. He was ready," Michael told the room.
"He left with dignity and he left with gravitas. That's my old man.
"He was a lion to the very end. He was one the greatest humans I've ever met."
Seagulls Rugby League Club CEO Matt Francis spoke at the service which he said was a fitting tribute to "Tommy".
Mr Francis first met Tom in the early 90s when they worked together supporting young athletes before continuing their careers in the NRL.
He said there were plenty of tears throughout the day, but more importantly, there was plenty of laughter.
"It was a fitting tribute to Tom, with the support of the Seagulls Club, and even with covid restrictions, we still managed to have 400 people attend but could have had three times that amount," Mr Francis said.
"All speakers almost developed a theme, which was Tommy's ability to search for the best in other people and also for them for find the best in themselves.
"They not only spoke of the Tom Searle who was involved in rugby league but also a community member and a friend to many."
"The service finished with a standing ovation in celebration and thanks to Tom for what he did for us all."
Mr Francis said Tom's family and friends were also joined by people he helped including rugby league greats Ben Ikin, who emceed the service, Preston Campbell and Kevin Campion "to name a few".
Originally published as Seagulls mourn club stalwart