Heartbreak after rising star dies

A grief-stricken community has gathered to pay tribute to 16-year-old Samara Whitney. Her coffin was adorned in items that meant the world to the adored teen.

The talented 16-year-old was remembered fondly at an emotional service at the Harcombe Centre at her school, Marist Regional College, in Burnie, which saw hundreds of friends, teammates and family pay tribute to her short but brilliant life.

Samara Whitney played for the Wynyard Football Club and was part of the Tasmania Devils program. Picture: Wynyard FC Facebook

She was described as her mum Kym’s “best friend” and her dad Seton’s “everything”.

“You were not just my baby girl. You were my best friend, my greatest achievement, my mini me,” Ms Whitney said. “You were one-in-a-million.”

She described her beloved daughter as passionate, dedicated and kind-hearted. She was headstrong and beautiful “inside and out”.

“I love you, our little pocket rocket. Keep kicking those goals.”

‘Pocket Rocket’ was the nickname given to Samara as her football talent quickly emerged. She played for the Wynyard Football Club and was part of the Tasmania Devils program.

Her white coffin was draped in the guernseys of the teams she represented, with her football boots carefully placed near a Grand Final trophy.

Samara Whitney with dad Seton and mum Kym.

Big sister Tiarna said she would “do anything to hear your voice again and give you a big squeeze”. She fondly recalled Samara’s infectious smile and “cute little laugh”, and how her eyes would squint when she grinned.

“You were the prettiest girl with such a heart of gold. You never had a bad thing to say about anyone. Your mannerism, your happy demeanour and your maturity made me so proud as a big sister.”

The large turnout was testament to the major impact she had on those around her, she added, saying: “You were loved by so many.”

She read out a message she received from Samara on her 21st birthday, outlining all of the things she wished for her big sister, including

one day being a mum and having “little squirrels” of her own.

“I hope I have a little girl and I hope she’s exactly like you – smart, beautiful, talented and so much more. Heaven has gained the most beautiful angel who will watch over every single one of us, every single day.”

Hundreds gathered to farewell Samara at an emotional service held at her school.

Samara’s boyfriend Alister praised her devotion to her friends and the ability she had to always know what to say when someone needed support.

“She was a bit of a role model to me. I found myself trying to improve myself. She was always trying to make me a better person in every way she could.

“Samara, if you’re listening, I miss you so much. I’d give anything to talk to you just one more time.

“Thank you so much for all the time we had together and all the memories we made. I’ll always remember you for the rest of my life. No matter what, you’ll always have a special place in my heart. I promise to make you proud.”

Her coach Tim Grey recalled meeting her as a plucky 13-year-old who pleaded to train and play with the Under 17s youth girls team.

“First game, seeing this little girl, knee-high to a grasshopper, up against some 17-year-olds who were fairly big, it was clear she had a special talent about her,” he said.

“Little did I know, over the years, I was about to see first-hand how special that talent was.”

Samara Whitney’s love of AFL was “fierce”.

She played every game of that season and was awarded best and fairest at the Grand Final, which her team won.

Mr Grey remembered Samara as eager, easy to coach and pleasant, and shared a recent conversation the pair had.

“I told her not to forget about me when she made the big time. She asked me that when she made the AFLW, would I be her date for the Brownlow.”

When she made her debut for the Devils Under 19 side, she sent him a text message that read: “Thanks for teaching me and getting me this far in football.”

Mr Grey said he replied: “You’re a little bloody superstar, you are.”

Teammates formed a guard of honour.

Teammates formed a guard of honour as her coffin was carried out, with the crowd singing the Wynyard Football Club’s song.

Samara is survived by her parents Kym and Seton, sisters Tiarna, Nikiah, Mahalia and Ava, and grandmother Annette.

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