Adam Ashley-Cooper jumped the fence immediately after the Wallabies’ victory over Wales at Twickenham at the weekend to dedicate the win to a seriously ill childhood friend in the stands.
Sadly, however, Ashley-Cooper had to lead the tributes on Thursday to the same friend, leading Sydney referee Guy Grinham, who passed away in London following a long battle with illness.
The Wallabies team held a moment’s silence before training to pay their respects to Grinham, a popular rugby official and mad fan who lost his fight with cancer just days after watching Australia play the Welsh under special arrangements at Twickenham.
The 31-year-old Sydney accountant and father of two had been fighting the illness for some time but travelled to England with friends and family to fulfil a dream to watch Australia play in a World Cup game.
Grinham took a serious downturn in health after arriving, however, and had to be hospitalised.
Ashley-Cooper, who grew up playing rugby with him on the Central Coast, visited a day before the Wales clash but it appeared the bed-ridden Grinham would be unable to attend the game due to difficult logistics.
But after contact between the Wallabies, World Rugby and Twickenham on match eve, World Rugby organised for a private box and ambulance transfers so Grinham could still go and watch.
The Wallabies won in a thriller and in a touching gesture, Ashley-Cooper leapt into the crowd after the whistle and climbed around 100 stairs in his boots and playing kit to go and visit his friend.
“He got to the Welsh game and we won and after the game I just jumped the fence and ran up and hugged it out with him and his family. It was a special moment, it was emotional but the smile on his face, I will never forget it,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“It’s so sad but I am very proud that we were able to put on that performance for him. I told him I would be playing for him and to win the way we did, and knowing he was there, it was really special.”
Wallabies legends George Gregan and John Eales also visited Grinham in the box.
He passed away with family by his side three days later. Grinham is survived by wife Tenille and children Charlie and Collette.
The NSW refereeing community were in mourning over the loss of a highly talented whistleblower who’d climbed the ranks to be among Sydney’s best.
He refereed in 142 games in Sydney grade rugby, national championships at junior level, NSW Country representative level and assisted off-field at several Super Rugby matches.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika learned of Grinham’s story from Ashley-Cooper and asked the winger to share it with the team.
“Cheik got us together this morning and asked to take a moment in silence and to really think about a bloke who was suffering so much, and yet on his bucket list was to come over and watch us play, and just the fight that he had to go through to get to the game,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“It was a moment for us to not only to wish him a safe passage to where he now rests but to also realise how lucky we all are. We offer our sincerest condolences to all Guy’s family, friends and loved ones. I know he’ll be missed.”