James Ackerman will forever be remembered

The sound of 34 pairs of boots echoing down the tunnel - led on a 30-metre long march by two very special feet - a bit smaller than the rest.

It’s a sound that sends a shiver down the spine and brings a tear to the eye.

As 34 grown men take those long strides down the tunnel, they are preparing for battle but they are united by something much greater - someone much greater.

The little feet of Olliver Ackerman following in much larger feet that made the same walk so many times before. 

As Ollie guides the Redcliffe Dolphins and Sunshine Coast Falcons down that tunnel and onto Dolphin Stadium, rival fans stand side-by-side to remember James Ackerman - the tough, hard-hitting footballer who never let his mates down, the fierce competitor, the genuine bloke who held and was held in the same regard by everyone at both clubs from the groundsman to the CEO, the loyal brother, caring son, the devoted and loving husband and father.

 
 
 
 
 
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This kid is a tad biased towards one team 😂😂

A post shared by Andrew James Ackerman (@ackerman_88) on

Redcliffe, where Ackerman played 95 games for the Dolphins between 2008 and 2014 from colts to Queensland Cup, has won the James Ackerman Cup in all three years since 2016.

The Falcons, the club which retired the No.8 jersey after Ackerman’s passing, is determined to bring the Cup home for the very first time.

Ackerman’s son Olliver and daughter Milly are always front and centre for the special game each year between the two clubs that have been present in their lives - their early years spent on the hill at Dolphin Oval watching their daddy, before finding space on the hill at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

James Ackerman in action for the Redcliffe Dolphins. Photo: QRL Media
James Ackerman in action for the Redcliffe Dolphins. Photo: QRL Media

Ackerman, every time he walked down the tunnel at Redcliffe, would reach up to touch the portrait of former club president Des Webb - a nod to the man who gave him a chance as an 18-year-old, leading to a stint with the Brisbane Broncos under-20s and later, an impressive Intrust Super Cup career.

Ollie - a spitting image of his dad - may not be able to reach Dessie on his own, but there is no shortage of players who will be willing to lift Ollie on their shoulders to carry on the tradition.

Olliver and Milly Ackerman in front of Des Webb's portrait in 2016. Photo: Jamie-Leigh Ray
Olliver and Milly Ackerman in front of Des Webb's portrait in 2016. Photo: Jamie-Leigh Ray

Dolphins stalwart Aaron Whitchurch was a long-time teammate of Ackerman’s including the devastating 2012 grand final loss to Wynnum.

Dolphins hooker Jake Turpin debuted in the Intrust Super Cup for the Falcons in 2015 with a protective Ackerman taking him under his wing.

Turpin is now at the Dolphins as a Broncos affiliate player and rates this round as the most special.

“Ackers was the player who taught me how tough of a competition Queensland cup was,” Turpin recalled. 

“He was fearless in every collision he had.”

No one is more proud to walk with Ollie than new recruit to the Falcons, Todd Murphy - or Uncle Toddy as Ollie and Milly affectionately call their daddy’s best mate.

Murphy and Ackerman played junior football together for school and club, before both signing at the Dolphins in 2008.

Murphy has returned to the Sunshine Coast this year, and for the first time will play for a trophy in honour of his mate.

“I can’t really put into words what has happened, and what the Ackerman family has been through,” Murphy said.

“But, if i can help put a smile on Ollie’s face - and it's something that we will both remember - then it's definitely something I want to do.”

James Ackerman in action for Sunshine Coast Falcons. Photo: QRL Media
James Ackerman in action for Sunshine Coast Falcons. Photo: QRL Media

The number of players on either side who personally knew Ackerman are dwindling - but the legacy of James Ackerman is strengthened every time these two clubs meet.

Those 34 pairs of boots, those 34 grown men who take the field will always be united by something much greater than the game; someone much greater - James Ackerman.