The best friend of cricket coach Matt Conwell who died suddenly last week has remembered the father-to-be as a gentle man with a “Colgate smile”.
Mr Conwell, 32, died in Brisbane on September 2 in what police say was a suicide. His wife of 12 years, Ashleigh Conwell, 29, is expecting the couple’s three babies later this year.
Almost $200,000 has been raised to support his pregnant wife as tributes continue to pour in for the loving husband and friend.
Clint Freebody, who was a groomsman at Mr Cornwell’s wedding to Ashleigh in 2017, said the last time he saw his childhood friend was on his birthday on March 22.
“We were mates since grade 4 and played soccer and cricket together for many sporting teams and whenever I was in Brisbane we’d catch up for backyard cricket,” Mr Freebody, 32, told The Courier Mail.
He referred to Mr Conwell as a gifted sportsman who “genuinely didn’t have an enemy, not one”.
“He was patient, kind, caring and put others first, before even considering himself,” Mr Freebody said. “He was allergic to peanuts, loved strawberry thick shakes, and had an infamous Colgate smile.”
Mr Freebody, who is in the air force and based in Sale, Victoria, told the publication the pair talked often, including “how sh*t COVID was”.
The young father-to-be and his wife lost their jobs due to COVID-19 as millions of Australians were put out of work by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Conwell, known affectionately as “Cozzy”, worked with professional and premier grade sporting clubs, including his work as a strength and conditioning coach for the Brisbane Roar.
Ashleigh, who found out she was going to be a mother to triplets in June, had also lost her job as a marketing manager at Flight Centre.
Brisbane-based community club Wolston Park Centenary Cricket said Mr Conwell was “a driving force for Queensland Cricket” in many development programs.
“Matt always presented a smiling face and he will be sadly missed by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him,” WPC Cricket Club President Peter Davies wrote on the club’s Facebook page.
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The Redlands Tigers Club, whom Mr Conwell worked with, held a pre-game gathering and a minute silence at the weekend for their “great friend and teammate”.
South Brisbane Cricket Club Brisbane Super King also said Mr Conwell “was a huge part of BSK Juniors over the recent years and will deeply missed”.
A mental health emergency has erupted in the months since Australia launched its unprecedented response to coronavirus, with anxiety and depression rates skyrocketing.
The consequences of that, coupled with the long-term psychological distress caused by unemployment and its myriad side-effects, could see suicide rates jump sharply.
“The predicted increase of suicides is 25 per cent each year for the next five years,” Professor Ian Hickie, co-director of the Brain and Mind Centre at The University of Sydney, said.
“That’s 750 extra deaths by suicide a year. It’s an enormous number. It will be a massively bigger death toll than COVID.”
Ashleigh’s sister Emily Fallon told The Courier Mail her brother-in-law was struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and made a “snap decision”.
“It was a snap decision, a moment of clouded judgment, and totally out of character,” Ms Fallon told the publication. “This year’s been tough for everyone, even the strongest people you thought could get through it, and while there were some struggles and stresses there, it just shows suicide doesn’t discriminate.
“The outpouring of support is a testament to the kind of person Matt was – very non-judgemental, very genuine and caring, an unassuming, quiet person who had time for everyone.”
A GoFundMe page set up to support the expectant mother during this unimaginable time has already raised nearly $200,000 as of Tuesday morning.
A father-of-four who donated $150 said “there is a saying, ‘it takes a community to raise a child’.”
“Ashleigh I don’t know you, but I am so deeply sorry this has happened to you, Matt and your unborn babies. Sending so much love,” wrote another person.
“I have never met yourself or your husband, but I am so very sorry for your loss. My heart breaks for you, your three beautiful babies will bring you endless joy and love,” said another.
Thousands of other Australians have also donated, leaving heartfelt messages of support and condolences for Ashleigh as she prepares to raise the couple’s three children alone.
If you wish to donate to Ashleigh you can access the GoFundMe page here.