Nevin Spence: A Tribute
As a journalist I was always told to keep my personal feelings and emotions out of the issues I had to report on. However, this is not possible today.
I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the Spence family at this time and I wish Emma a full and speedy recovery.
There are no words to adequately express or understand the events which unfolded over the weekend when Nevin, his father Noel and his brother Graham lost their lives in a farming accident.
The farming community in Hillsborough, the church community in Ballynahinch, local politicians, personalities from football, snooker, boxing, GAA in Northern Ireland, Ulster Rugby supporters home and away… all over the world, people have left messages of condolence for Mrs Spence and her two daughters – Emma and Laura – on the tragic loss of their family members.
On Sunday, a press conference was held at Ravenhill. Here, I joined local journalists as we united in our shock and grief at the events of the previous evening.
It was an emotional meeting as both Ulster Rugby CEO Shane Logan and Director of Rugby David Humphreys spoke openly and fondly of Nevin.
Shane Logan described Nevin as “a model professional and a model individual. A man of absolute integrity, complete determination, great humility, a fine team player and an all-round exceptional individual.”
David Humphreys added to this, calling Nevin a dream player to work with.
“He was the epitome of what we were looking for. On days when nobody else wanted to come in and train, he was there leading from the front.
“All he wanted to do for the remainder of his career was to stay here, win trophies and be successful for Ulster. He brought his commitment, his passion and his enthusiasm every time he played,” he said.
On Tuesday morning, Ulster captain Johann Muller released an emotional statement on behalf of the Ulster team where he to described Nevin as “the kind of player that inspired others with his attitude in training and sheer will to win in matches.”
He added: “His positive outlook on life brought a smile to people’s faces. He was kind, polite, generous and courageous, and we were blessed to have him in our team.”
Since Saturday evening, Twitter has been inundated with messages of shock, sadness and tributes for Graham, Noel and in particular, Nevin. From fellow sportsmen and sporting organisations, to supporters and friends, hundreds of tributes have been left for the 22-year-old Ulster Rugby player.
Outside of Ulster, the world has paid its respects. From Cian Healy, Brian O’Driscoll and Jerry Flannery, to Dan Carter, Jerome Kaino and Shane Williams. The world of rugby has united in their grief for a young talent lost far too soon.
This afternoon I went to Ravenhill to pay my respects to my friend and his family. Having regularly attended the ground for years, today it was different.
It wasn’t a place for rugby, it was a place for remembrance.
The grounds were in complete silence. A few people studied the tributes closely, pointing out ones here and there. Others stood back and just observed. It was emotional, but there was also a sense of peace amidst the silence.
As a rugby player, I remember watching as Nevin turned out for his first Schools’ Cup game at Wallace. We all knew we were witnessing something special as we watched him from the centres. He scored a hat trick of tries in the quarter final against BRA helping the first XV make their way to the 2007 Schools