Ackerman heartbreak: 'All he wants is to see his daddy'
'All he wants is his daddy or to be able to go to heaven to see his daddy'
THE mother of fatally injured rugby league player James Ackerman says the game must do more to prevent another tragedy.
"James did nothing wrong, yet we're the ones with the life sentence," Sonya Ackerman said on Thursday.
Her son was the father of two children, including a boy now aged 5 who struggled to cope with the loss of his dad.
"That devastates us because we can't fix it," Mrs Ackerman said.
"All he wants is his daddy or to be able to go to heaven to see his daddy."
"And from a mum or a nanna's point of view, that's really killing us and I know that would be killing James, who'd be watching over him."
"All we wanted...is for the game to move forward and be a lot safer," Mrs Ackerman added, after a coroner released findings into the 25 year-old's death.
James died after another player, Francis Molo, collided with him, impacting the area around his upper shoulder area, causing his head to snap back.
"The fact that it was definitely a shoulder charge" was the most important finding, Mrs Ackerman said outside Brisbane Coroners Court.
She said league authorities should reassess their approach to shoulder charges if another tragedy was to be prevented.
"It's happening every week in the game so obviously its's not working…if you need to send somebody off, send them off."
Ackerman family lawyer Peter Boyce said questionable on-field incidents were not being dealt with in a timely manner.
He said some in the game were "passing the buck" to league judiciaries which might only meet days afterwards.
Mr Boyce said the Ackermans had no resentment towards Mr Molo, who was a Norths Devils player when the fatal collision happened in 2015.
"It's very easy to say that he shouldn't have done what he did…But the Ackerman's aren't about revenge or retribution.
"They're about making sure the game that James loved, and that they loved - but perhaps not as much anymore - is better and gets better. We can always improve."
Coroner warns on shoulder charges
BANNED and dangerous shoulder charges still happen too often in rugby league, and a coroner says contact sports generally should do more to improve player safety.
James Ackerman, a Sunshine Coast Falcons player, died after a controversial on-field collision with Francis Molo of the Norths Devils in June 2015.
Mr Molo did not wrap his arms "in a traditional tackle" around Mr Ackerman, deputy state coroner John Lock said on Thursday.
The coroner, delivering his inquest findings, found the major point of contact during the collision was on Mr Ackerman's upper shoulder.
"This impact did cause forceful movement of James' head…" Mr Lock added.
"James immediately fell to the ground….James was obviously struggling to breathe and was otherwise unresponsive."
The death of the beloved young father and husband "continues to distress" his family and friends, the coroner added.
The inquest, held in July, heard Mr Molo apparently shoved 25-year-old Mr Ackerman after the collision.
Mr Lock said he was "satisfied that Francis did briefly shove James" but this was not done vindictively, and Mr Molo did not know how badly hurt Mr Ackerman was.
"James died playing the game he loved," Mr Lock added.
He said the inquest was held for reasons including the Ackermans' ongoing concerns about how James died and how his death was investigated.
During the inquest in July, touch judge Steve Kanowski and Falcons player Ryan Hansen described the tackle on Mr Ackerman as a shoulder-charge, which is banned in the sport's rules.
Mr Lock said rugby league authorities had made an effort in recent years to improve safety.
But he said some confusion existed about what incidents Workplace Health and Safety Queensland needed to investigate.
He said it would be helpful if WHSQ could clarify what jurisdiction it had to investigate on-field incidents.
Mr Lock said league and other sports need to keep working on "hazard identification and risk assessment" to improve safety.
He said the Brisbane Broncos and Norths should have given more thought about discussing shoulder charges with Mr Molo.
The coroner said the clubs were in unknown territory, and were worried about Mr Molo's mental health after the fatal incident.
But Mr Lock said "in hindsight" it might have been a good idea to get professional advice on how to discuss shoulder charges with Mr Molo.
"It's evident that Francis was not spoken to about shoulder charges" Mr Lock added.
The inquest heard league authorities claimed to have a "zero tolerance" approach to shoulder-charges.
But Mr Ackerman's friend Tyson Brough, a referee, told the inquest players were rarely sent off for the offence.
"Criminal law sanctions can still apply" to illegal actions on the footy field, the coroner added. -NewsRegional