A FULL house packed the pews at Sacred Heart Church, Murwillumbah, today as those who knew and loved Grant Cook bid their final farewell to the Mustangs player.
The back-rower, well-known for his contribution to the rugby league community, was sent off in a moving ceremony in the same church where he was married to his high school sweetheart, Colleen.
The couple attended Mount Saint Patrick College next door and later their children Mia, 2, and Carter, 3, were also baptised in the historic church.
Mr Cook's father, Geoff, opened the service with "Go the Mustangs" before giving a touching eulogy on his son's fervent work ethic; passion for family and the sport of rugby league.
Before his sudden death on September 12, Mr Cook clocked up 23 seasons in the game, from his early career at the Mullumbimby Junior Giants to the last two years at Murwillumbah.
"Grant told me his reasons for signing up with the Mustangs; that he was getting old and he wanted to win a premiership. Well, he got his medal," Mr Cook said, showing the Mustangs' premiership medal from their win against Cudgen Hornets on Sunday.
"Grant not only reffed but he coached, he was a board member and was always someone who was involved in planning the trip away.
"Rugby league wasn't the only community that Grant was involved in, he also had about 23 seasons at the Mullum Brunswick Cricket Club; he liked to open the batting and he thought he could bowl."
Mr Cook spoke proudly of his son's achievements in owning a Tweed fruit and veg shop, receiving the school spirit award at Mount St Patrick's as he graduated, gaining a double-degree in accounting and sports management, and his love for overseas travel.
"What Grant has done is galvanised the community... the public response has been amazing and beyond belief, he would be very humbled by the accolades," Mr Cook said.
Tears fell as the delicate voice of Matthew Partridge echoed through the chapel: "Goodbye, goodbye, why is it so hard to say goodbye. He passed away doing what he loved" - the song composed for the day.
Colleen Cook spoke graciously of her deceased husband, saying that in October 2014 their family was rocked when her best friend Kymberlie Shepherd, 26, died shortly after giving birth to son Kyden in a Perth hospital, with partner Wayde Kelly by her side.
It was Mr Cook who comforted her during those times.
"I can hear him telling me it will be okay, be strong Coll, get up and look after those children of ours, hug them for me, love them for both of us," she said.
"We have to feel the lows to really appreciate the highs and the support... it's unbelievable. Look at how many people loved you Grant."
A guard of honour was formed by Mustangs players as the community stood in silence to farewell Mr Cook, whose coffin was adorned with the Mustangs' colours of yellow and blue, the same as the drapes covering the church alter.
As the funeral came to an end, those giving their respects converged in silence on Murwillumbah St in the gentle rain. Players clapped as the procession departed to a private burial.
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