WHEN Steve Williams looks at a photo of his son, Nathan, smiling and wearing a Maryborough jumper, he bursts with pride.
For Steve, it's that photo taken earlier this year that perfectly encapsulates the selfless nature of Nathan.
As passionate as Nathan was about the Gisborne Football-Netball Club and the mates he played with, it didn't stop him from helping Maryborough out earlier this year when the struggling Magpies' reserves were light on for numbers.
"Maryborough didn't have enough numbers in their reserves the day they fronted up to play us, so Nathan helped them out," Steve said on Friday.
"Our Club 18 coach posted that photo this week of Nathan playing for Maryborough and basically said it spoke a thousand words about Nathan... the fact that he'd pull an opposition jumper on so that his mates could play a game of footy summed up my son.
"My wife and I have put that photo as the wallpaper on our phones because we're just so proud of everything it represents."
The Gisborne community has been rocked this week by the death of Nathan in a car crash just 200m from his home in Skyline Drive last Sunday night.
Nathan, 19, was a popular member of the Gisborne Football-Netball Club, joining the Bulldogs' under-18s in 2017 after playing with the Gisborne Rookies.
A diligent defender, Nathan - better known as SOS (son of Steve) - would have been part of the Bulldogs' under-18 premiership team last year had he not been forced to endure a season on the sidelines with a severe rotator cuff injury.
While he was unable to contribute on the field, Nathan made up for it with his efforts off the field to assist coach Marty Lakey.
"Nath took all the stats for Marty... he'd take the clearances, inside 50s, tackles and all that stuff. He'd then come home on a Saturday night, type up his stats on the computer and send them on to Marty," Steve said.
"He still had a great involvement with the under-18 boys last year and I was really proud of the way he handled the season.
"It got to a point in the season last year where it was looking like we were going to be finishing on top of the ladder and he was training really strongly.
"One of the assistant coaches said, 'wouldn't it be great if we had Nath ready to go for the finals to give us a bit of extra run off half-back'.
"He wasn't a superstar footballer by any means, but he was a very good runner with a great aerobic capacity and we probably could have got him qualified to play in the finals by stepping him on and off the ground for four games.
"But to Nathan's credit, he never considered doing that because we already had a squad of about 28 or 29, so everyone knew there was going to be six or seven guys missing out on a game in the grand final if we were to get there.
"Nathan was conscious of that, but I'm sure that if we were struggling a bit for numbers he would have put his hand up to try to qualify for finals to help out.
"But the fact he didn't want to put someone out of a game... I remember talking to him the day after the grand final (Gisborne beat Sandhurst by three points) and telling him how proud I was of him that he never dropped his head, was at just about every training and was there supporting his mates all year.
"As a dad, that's what makes me so proud of him; he was selfless as a footballer and he was selfless as a human being."
While Gisborne's senior team has a BFNL preliminary final to play against Eaglehawk on Saturday, football has understandably taken a backseat at Gardiner Reserve this week.
There was training as usual on Thursday night, but the evening also featured an emotional address from Steve alongside his wife Chris and daughter Sarah.
"We went down to the club as a family last night and I delivered a speech about everyone needing to take responsibility for their actions and that we just can't have another scenario where any other parents in our local area have to go through what we've been going through this week," Steve said.
"I implored with all the footballers and netballers to act responsibly 100 per cent of the time and that if you're thinking about crossing the line, use what we will now call the Nathan Williams rule.
"He was just a great kid who had an enormous friendship group here in Gisborne. We're sitting down now trying to work out who could have a part in the funeral next week and there'd be 30 or so mates that we could handpick and say, 'yep, he had a really close bond with him'.
"We're so lucky with that particular age group we've got down here that they have such a wide friendship group. Nathan was central to a lot of that and we've certainly been touched by the outpouring of grief.
"The support we've had this week has just been overwhelming, but that's what it's like when you're part of a community and a football club and it's just a testament to the amount of mates and the respect Nathan had from not only his mates, but the adults who knew him as well."
The Williams family has accepted an invitation from the BFNL for a minute's silence to be held in memory of Nathan prior to Saturday's BFNL preliminary final between the Bulldogs and Hawks at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
And just like he has every week this year, Steve will again play his part for the Bulldogs team as their senior runner on Saturday.
"Part of my speech to the club last night was about geeing the boys up a bit for this weekend," Steve said.
"When something like this happens everyone asks if there's anything they can do to help, but what I said to the boys was I don't need any flowers or cards from you, I just need that extra five per cent on Saturday to help try to get us over the line and into a grand final."
Nathan's funeral will be held next Thursday at Gardiner Reserve at 11am.
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