'Please come back': Heartbreak over tragic death of footy coach

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Kimberly Driedger and Jake Ryan, pictured here before his tragic death.
Kimberly Driedger has paid tribute to Jake Ryan after he was killed when hit by a train in Noto, Sicily. Image: Instagram/Siracusa News

The death of Gold Coast footy identity Jake Ryan has sparked an outpouring of grief, as new details emerge about the 39-year-old’s tragic death.

Ryan, who worked as a coach at the Gold Coast Suns academy from 2012 to 2016, died in Italy on Wednesday after he was hit by a train while out for a jog.

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It is believed he was wearing headphones while out running in Noto, on the Italian island of Sicily.

Local media reports the train driver stopped and tried to revive Ryan, but his injuries were too severe.

The death of the popular figure, who played in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria, has sent shockwaves through the footy and wider communities.

Kimberly Driedger, who had spent two months travelling around Europe and North America with Ryan, expressed her shock and disbelief on social media.

“How do I say goodbye … Seeing your face and hearing your voice every day for the past 2 months … how do we get back to that?” she wrote.

Jake Ryan, pictured here in Europe before his tragic death.
Jake Ryan had been travelling around Europe and North America. Image: Facebook

“We were meant to have so much more time together … to play one more game of Go Fish. To spend Christmas in Portugal together. To laugh with each other and smile just once more.

“Mi Amor, please come back. I need you, so I can smile again. So that we can fulfil all the beautiful things we talked about together.

“You were the sweetest, most considerate, the truest gentleman of all. You were so special. You showed me how to love again. I miss you. My double rainbow. Thank you for blessing my soul with your love. They don’t make many of you.”

In a tragic twist, Ryan died nearly 18 years to the day since he survived the 2012 Bali bombings.

Just days ago he had reflected on the terrorist attack that claimed 202 lives, including 88 Australians.

“Eighteen years … a lifetime ago … yet seems like yesterday,” he wrote on Facebook on Monday.

“You reflect back and I just think how lucky we were to get home. Some weren’t.

Jake Ryan's post reflecting on the Bali bombings, pictured here on Facebook.
Jake Ryan's Facebook post reflecting on the Bali bombings. Image: Facebook

“Our love, prayers, thoughts and support with you and your families today. For us lucky ones that got home … forever thankful.

“Being on the trip I’m on at the moment is a perfect reminder of how lucky I am.

“Why you have to have a crack every day, do as much as you can, and live as much of a life as you can.”

Ryan was in Kuta with brother Mitch when the bombs went off, suffering severe injuries to his stomach and foot.

“His whole life’s been about squeezing every drop out of the lemon,” Mitch told 7News on Wednesday.

“And there was nothing left in it. He squeezed everything. He did everything he wanted to.

“The world stopped because of the pandemic and no one could travel. And Jake did.

“Nothing would ever stop him at anything.”

Jake Ryan, pictured here at a shrine on the Coast in remembrance of the 2002 Bali bombings.
Jake Ryan at a shrine on the Coast in remembrance of the 2002 terrorist attack in Bali. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt).

Footy world left devastated by tragedy

A number of Ryan’s former footy clubs and friends have posted devastated tributes on social media.

“We are deeply saddened to hear that Jake Ryan has passed away,” the Southport Sharks wrote on Facebook.

“We would like to express our sincere condolences to Jake’s family and friends.”

The Surfers Paradise Demons said Ryan as a “great club man”.

“Sad day today as we lost one of the best! RIP great man Jake Ryan. Never met a bloke to live life harder or better than him,” Josh Willatt wrote on Facebook.

Chris Helder added: “RIP to my friend Jake Ryan. Bali bombing survivor, footballer, man who lived his time to the fullest.

“His story was amazing. Lots of bro love for this guy and many big nights at the events we did together. Life cut too short.”

Nathan Partridge wrote: “Shattered to hear that we lost one of the most beautiful blokes in the world today. You lived life to the fullest champ, you were an inspiration to us all. We’ll miss you mate!!”