NRL young gun Jason Saab has given a heartbreaking account of his anguish around the death of Keith Titmuss, and the final messages to his good mate that went unanswered.
Titmuss' shock and sudden death last week left the rugby league community in Australia shattered, with tributes pouring in for the 20-year-old tipped to be a future star of the Sea Eagles.
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One man who has taken Titmuss' death particularly hard is new Manly signing Saab, who's revealed gut-wrenching details about their friendship and dreams of playing together at the club.
Saab was criticised after seeking a move away from the St George Illawarra Dragons because of the commute from his Greystanes home to Wollongong, south of Sydney.
The young winger's travel time to his new Narrabeen training base won't be much different, but Saab had planned on sharing the trip with his school mate Titmuss.
The pair were close friends after attending renowned Sydney rugby league nursery Westfield Sports High together, and planned on carpooling together to training every day.
Manly recruit Jason Saab feels the pain of losing Keith Titmuss more than most, he joined Manly hoping to play with his best mate, before the young forward sadly passed away after a training session last week. @Danny_Weidler #9News pic.twitter.com/43gqKQT9n3
— 9News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) November 30, 2020
Speaking on Nine News, Saab was reduced to tears discussing his heartache and disbelief over the tragic death of his good mate.
“I just broke down. I couldn’t believe it, I was in so much denial and shock,” Saab said.
“It rocked me.
“To have that feeling again … playing footy, training with your best mate … we always spoke about it.
“I messaged him that day. I said to him ‘bro I’m going to be there next week’,” Saab added before breaking down on camera.
"He never messaged back.
“I asked him how training was. That was probably the training that took his life.”
Saab plans to honour Titmuss at Manly
Titmuss died in hospital last Monday after experiencing severe full-body cramps and collapsing during stretches at the end of a Manly fitness session.
He had passed all medical tests before the club's pre-season training got underway, with a coroner's report set to shed more light on his death.
Manly made Titmuss - who was tipped to make his NRL debut in 2021 - an honorary first-grader after assigning him playing number 623 with the club.
While Saab's dream of playing with his mate at Manly has been cruelly ripped away, he says his good friend will never be far from his thoughts.
“I’ve got a reason to be there, every morning I get to walk by Keith with his Hall of Fame club legend poster on the way to the sheds,” Saab said.
“It feels right, it almost feels like it’s scripted that I be there and play first grade, by God’s will, play Round 1 and be the next Sea Eagles number right next to him.”
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