Queensland football legend Ross Whyte throws his arms aloft and laughs, then looks like he’s about to cry.
From an ambulance stretcher bed in the middle of the Gabba Stadium today in Brisbane, he lovingly clasps his adult son’s hand as they share a moment of glory from 44 years ago, writ large in sound and vision on the big screen.
Ross is dying from prostate cancer.
But the disease has not robbed him of the memory of driving that pill through the uprights to win the 1977 grand final in the Queensland Australian Football League.
“How did it feel? The pressure was released when I just saw it pretty much straight through the goals,” he said.
A footy hero’s final wish
Taking pride of place in a stadium that, like AFL in Queensland, has grown much bigger than it was, watching the replay of that feat at the age of 21 “felt so good”, Ross said in the afterglow.
“[I] felt so alive — just great.
“I’m going to get another copy of that I think and just watch the whole lot at home.”
It was Ross’s last wish to savour that moment in that place with his family and a few footy friends.
That 1977 grand final was something his children “heard about all through our life”, his daughter Jenna laughed.
“[But] we’ve never actually seen the footage, so it was actually fantastic for us as a family to see it altogether, and seeing how excited and happy dad was,” she said.
Ross’s last trip to the Gabba came courtesy of Ambulance Wish Queensland — a program run by Palliative Care Queensland with support from Queensland Health and the Queensland Ambulance Service.
A ‘spine-tingling’ winning goal
Quick to put a humble spin on the level of footy when he pulled on a jumper for Western Suburbs, Ross the grand final hero pre-empts the big screen replay by saying it will remind everyone of how far the modern game has come in speed and skill.
But Brisbane Lions ruckman Oscar McInerney was just as quick to pay tribute to an elder of the pride, who played for passion in the days when the state’s best were amateurs with no prospect of professional riches.
“Ross is absolutely a pioneer,” Mr McInerney said.
“It was actually spine-tingling, wasn’t it, to see Ross kicking that winning goal.
“And just how calmly and cooly he walked back off his mark and straight through the big sticks.”