Two words have melted the hearts of football fans after Panthers coach Ivan Cleary took time away from Grand Final fever on Sunday to share a special moment with a young fan.
Nicholas “Nicky” Tadros was critically injured when two helicopters collided mid-air at Sea World on the Gold Coast in January, an incident which tragically killed his mother.
The crash broke almost every bone in the 11-year-old’s body and required doctors to amputate one of his legs, with the road to recovery expected to take more than a decade.
After cheering his favourite team on to victory on Sunday, Nicky was caught on video sharing two simple words to coach Cleary as the team gathered in the dressing room: “Thank you”.
The simple exchange was widely shared on Monday with the young survivor’s words have a visible effect on Cleary, who embraced Nicky in a hug while chatting with the boy’s father.
“He’s become a very special member of our Panthers community and it’s so good to see him so happy. What Nicholas and his father have been through is unimaginable,” an emotional Cleary said.
“I want us to be a source of community pride and if we can put smiles on people’s faces and make them feel good, that’s a pretty privileged position to be in and we take that seriously.”
The touching exchange comes more than nine months after the horror crash on Queensland’s Gold Coast which claimed the lives of four people, including Nicky’s mother Vanessa Tadros.
SeaWorld helicopter crash survivor Nicholas Tadros and Panthers coach Ivan Cleary after the 2023 NRL grand final.
The two helicopters collided mid-air while one was attempting to land and another departing from a helipad at the Sea World theme park, with tourists and park-goers all on-board.
In March, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a preliminary report into the crash, noting the pilot the helicopter coming in to land did not hear a radio call by the other pilot.
Months later, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority announced it too would seek feedback from pilots regarding the airspace around Southport, separate to the existing ATSB investigation.
Despite having to learn to walk again, the 11-year-old quickly bounced back and within months of the incident was able to achieve one of his dreams: to become a black belt in karate.
While in hospital, Nick was also able to pursue another passion of his, the Panthers football club, with a visit from self-professed “bad boy” and number 6 player, Jarome Luai.
Luai visited Nicky – who he described as an inspiration – while he was still bed-bound, with the young boy telling The Sydney Morning Herald the visit helped him talk to people again.
The pair were able to reunite in the dressing room after Sunday’s game, with Luai reportedly seeking Nicky out for a heartwarming moment – the second for young Nicky of the night.
Nicky told 2GB on Monday that Luai let him wear his premiership ring after a warm embrace.
“He (Luai) said to me that I’m a ‘legend and an inspiration’ … He said ‘here, carry my ring, it’s pretty cool’,” Nicky told 2GB.
“He started laughing because I said ‘it’s big on me’ cause he let me try it. Then he said ‘I love you’.”
Father Simon Tadros told the same radio station that Luai had gone out of his way to support Nicky.
“Once he (Luai) saw Nicholas he straight away called him over and gave him a hug and started talking to him,” Mr Tadros said.
“The fact that Jarome has gone out of his way on numerous occasions to be there for Nick, it just goes to show the kind of person Jarome is.”
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