The football community in Tasmania is in mourning over the death of 16-year-old Samara Whitney who is being remembered as “a true star who shone bright both inside and out”.
The AFL has announced equal prize money for both the men’s and women’s competitions.
The women’s prize money will increase from around $624,000 to $1.1 million this season to match the men.
The AFLW prize money will be split across the top eight teams while the men’s will be shared across the top four.
The 16-year-old died on Tuesday and was a rising star for the Wynyard Football Club, north west of Launceston, and a member of the Tasmania Devils program.
“It is with great sadness and heartache, we acknowledge the sudden passing of Samara Whitney. Samara has been a part of the WFC family since Juniors and played an integral role in our Senior Women’s Premiership side this year,” the football club wrote.
“A vibrant and loveable young lady who has made her mark at the WFC as a passionate and talented player, who had a big future ahead of her. Our young gun, our pocket rocket, our #2… such a positive influence for all. Someone who had a great connection with both our club and the wider community. This will last forever.
“A true star who shone bright both inside and out. We thank you for allowing us to be a part of your journey and for bringing so much light and joy into so many lives.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and to all who were blessed and touched by Mara’s beautiful soul.
“This unexpected passing has come as a shock to all. We ask the WFC Community to be kind & compassionate, and to reach out with open arms to those around you.”
The social media post was immediately flooded with comments of support from friends and members of the community.
“Such a beautiful girl, who has been a wonderful support in the Devils Program to my daughter, Eliza. Her friendship will never be forgotten. The world shines a little less brightly now, unfortunately,” one commented.
“Such devastating news she was a beautiful girl and a gun on the field. Pure joy. My heart breaks for her family. Sending waves of love and strength to all,” another wrote.
A third added: “Absolutely tragic our thoughts and love go out to the family and community such a beautiful soul, gone to heaven too soon x RIP angel.”
AFL Tasmania also released a statement sending condolences to Samara’s family, friends and members of the football community.
“AFL Tasmania extends its deepest sympathies to the Wynyard Football Club, North West Football League and Tasmania Devils communities following the sudden passing of Samara Whitney,” it wrote.
“Samara was a beloved member of the Wynyard Cats and the Tasmania Devils program, having also represented the NWFL in this year’s Women’s All Stars Series.”
In Samara’s honour some friends started a GoFundMe page to help the family pay for a farewell with more than $25,000 raised in the first 24 hours.
“Tuesday September 5, 2023 is a day that all of us will never forget. It was the day we learnt the tragic news that Samara Whitney #2 was no longer with us,” organiser Sasha Burr wrote.
“Time has since stood still for her family, friends, school community and sporting clubs as we all begin to grieve and navigate life without our special girl.
“With the permission of Samara’s parents Kym and Seton, we have set up this page to assist with giving their daughter a beautiful farewell that she deserves.
“The Whitney and Smitheram families are very loved in our little community and if you are wishing to donate please click on the donate button and please feel free to leave a message to Samara or her family. Much love to you all.”