The life of inspirational East Geelong football coach Craig Doc Carey was celebrated with all that was dear to him, as 400 mourners gathered at Geelong's St Mary's Basilica on Tuesday.
Symbols of his passions - footy jumpers, thongs, a stubby holder, the 2019 GDFL premiership cup and medallion - replaced flowers on his coffin and 50 hats hung from each of the middle pews.
In what Crawford Funeral arranger Renae Brander described as one of the most moving tributes she had been privileged to witness, 100 grieving family and friends formed a guard of honour as the hearse left the church.
But it was the eulogy delivered by his brother Shaun Carey that captured the essence of Doc as a "giver" - to his beloved family and sporting community.
With the family's permission we share his heartfelt tribute.
On behalf of Lyndell, Emily, Josh & Sarah as well as Craig's family and extended family we welcome and thank everyone for joining us to say farewell and to celebrate his life.
Lyndell and Craig's children have been deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support since Craig passed.
Craig was a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, brother-in-law, mate, friend, work colleague, coach, neighbour - the list goes on. We know that he has left us too soon, and as we learn to come to terms with this, we know that we should laugh, love, cry, hug, share a memory, share a joke, and stay strong, but most of all, we must cherish our own connection to Craig. Although we have many connections to Craig, we share in common our reaction to his passing.
"I'm in shock."
"I can't believe it."
"I don't know what to say."
These are the words and thoughts of all of us here, as well as those that have been unable to join us today.
As we remember Craig, it's impossible for Paul (Bullie) and I to capture the full essence of Craig's connection to us all. We'll do our best.
I particularly want to touch on three aspects of Craig's life: His success; what shaped him; and of course, just some of the funny and quirky stuff.
Craig's success was his family
Success can be defined many ways, however for Craig it was 21-plus years of marriage. It was a companionship that enjoyed love, respect, its unique rituals and a healthy willingness to try harder when the going got tough.
Lyndell shared with me:
"Craig was a great husband, a great friend. I'm going to miss him and I'm scared.
"I bloody appreciate everything he has done, I love him to the moon and back and I don't know what to do without him. It's not supposed to be like this, we are supposed to get old and grey and have grandkids. He would have been a great grandfather.
Lyndell's words are brutally raw and so beautifully real.
Craig raised three children to adulthood. Words simply can't encapsulate the unique bonds that exist between a dad and his children.
Emily wrote: "I will forever cherish our memories, you were a jokester who always made us laugh."
Josh wrote: "Thank you for everything. You were such a smart, kind man that always made sure everyone else was put in front of you."
Sarah wrote: "You had so much love for me and everybody around you. I'll miss you forever."
Craig is godfather to Charlie, a role he deeply cherished. Charlie wrote: "Dear Uncle Craig, I miss you so much. I wish you were still here. It's so sad, hugs and kisses."
For Craig, his family are and were the big rocks in life - a true measure of success by any definition.
What shaped Craig
The Careys grew up in a modest environment. Raising five children was not easy. Despite this we had the great enjoyment of being part of a much larger, extended family. Craig's mum Christine was the youngest of 14 children and our childhood was punctuated with regular large family gatherings of the Sims, the Buckleys, the Smiths and the Dowds. In addition to the love of his parents, Craig flourished with the love and support of our extended family. He always looked forward to the big family occasions where we would play cricket, footy, British Bulldog and chasey with Michael, David, Kylie, Peter, David and Andrew and the rest of the clan in one of our aunty's front yard. These were great times and great childhood memories.
One of Craig's favourite rituals was the Christmas Day "family and friends" basketball match at the Smith's. The Christmas Day game was a fierce competition with 12-months bragging rights and a $2 plastic trophy to the winners. His dad Brian would call out fouls and shake his head (with a grin) as Craig got regularly lined up and "nudged" into the rose bush at the end of the court to block him out of the game, or to steal the ball from him. There was a lot of trash talk and laughter and Craig was always in the thick of it. At the end of the game everyone sat around together cleaning up the blood from rose bush scratches and boasting about the NBA standard three pointers, the lay-ups, and the quality blocks and defence.
Craig was always part of the entertainment on Christmas night - anything was possible. His impressions of the 12th man (which we can't repeat in this wonderful basilica) or him and David Dowd developing some new invention that they named, and then quickly developing an outrageous marketing strategy to take the product to the world. As they discussed copyright issues, they both googled the idea and discovered it was already on the market. Everyone would be doubled over with laughter, tears pouring down their faces.
He shared a special formative bond with David Smith, his godfather. David was responsible for Craig following his beloved Richmond Football Club. He also looked up to David Dowd who was there as a steady guiding influence.
Craig knew that to get ahead in life, he had to work hard and that's what he did. He was super intelligent, with wit, timing and an ability to capture the moment. He didn't always have a lot to say, but when he spoke, with real purpose, it was worth listening to.
Josh and I were reflecting on his ¾ time speech from the 2019 grand final. It went something like this;
"Just give me one more quarter, one more effort, that's all I ask … keep giving until you can't give any more and if you fall and can't give any more, I'll carry you across the line. I'll come out onto the field and carry you. Just give me one more quarter".
It was a riveting, spine tingling address and it bellowed across the oval. There it was, his wit, his timing and his ability to capture the moment, but it was also a reflection of how he lived his own life.
Craig was a giver. He did for others without expectation of anything in return. He hated being fussed on. We know that the East Geelong reserves team found Craig towards the end of a run to Eastern Beach. In such difficult circumstances the whole team stayed with Craig and the family, while paramedics worked to revive him. It was an amazing act of courage and respect by you boys - thank you. We also reckon that Craig would probably have been saying keep going you lot, what's all this fuss about?
It can't go unsaid that Craig took responsibility for the care of our parents. Brett, myself, Charlene (Craig's deceased sister) and Mark all went our separate ways. Craig didn't, his calling was to lay down the best possible life in Geelong and be there for Brian and Christine to the best of his ability as they aged and eventually passed. I know we never thanked him for doing this and we should have.
The funny and quirky stuff
We remember Craig for that cheeky smile and big old belly laugh. When he laughed he made everyone laugh with him; and according to Sarah, even if his jokes weren't funny.
There's the Coronas - he loved them. We also all know that it's quite possibly the worst beer in the world. Grant Greenwood said to me a few days ago, that he would always be winding Craig up about having to add lime to his beer to give it some flavour. Craig would quickly retort with some sort of Corona defence.
Speaking of limes, he took them everywhere, his little bag of limes - just in case wherever he was going to be didn't have them. It wasn't just the limes, it was also the precision with which he would cut them, it was like an art form.
You will have noticed at the end of each seat today is a cap. Craig was born to wear a cap. I think there is a photo somewhere of all his caps, on last count I think there was 137 caps. Feel free to take the cap with you today, there are plenty of them.
Craig had a "sense of dress"; everything needed to be co-ordinated in some way from the hat, to the shirt, to the shorts to the thongs. He would regularly be checking with Lyndell and the children for affirmation: "Does this go with this, what do you think?"
Apparently Craig was stubborn. Now Lyndell please, stubborn people like to refer to this as "being pragmatic, determined, focused or having the courage of conviction." Craig was stubborn.
As I pass over to Bullie, I just want us all to remember that grief, our grief, is part of the celebration of a wonderful, wonderful life. Thanks brother, sadly missed. We love you mate.
Originally published as Hundreds of mourners pay tribute to Craig 'Doc' Carey