Favourite son farewelled
THE death of one of the nation's most promising shooters, 21-year-old Robert Black, has brought fellow competitors from around Australia to the Clarence Valley to pay their last respects today.
Mr Black, known as Blackie, died on Friday after a 13-month battle with an inoperable brainstem glioma.
In October last year he had a coaching role with the Australian under-25 team in the World Long Range Championships.
This afternoon most of those team members will carry his coffin at a funeral service at his family home at Seelands.
"People are flying in from all over Australia to say their good-byes to Robbie," his mother Wendy Black said.
Mr Black was one of the country's most promising shooters, who had climbed into the top ranks, despite his youth.
"Robbie had dreams of competing for Australia at the Commonwealth Games - that's where they contest his event," Mrs Black said.
Grafton Rifle Club secretary John Stone said Mr Black had a unique record in the club, which has stood since 1887.
"In the one year Robbie held the open, under-25 and junior titles at the club," he said.
"As far as I can tell no-one has ever done anything like that."
Mrs Black said her son had fought a valiant battle against the disease that claimed him.
"Even though he knew what was going to happen to him, he never stopped trying to beat it," she said.
"Despite the increasing physical weakness Rob was always focussed on recovering and always seemed more concerned about the welfare of family and friends.
"He showed extraordinary courage and selflessness, kept his trademark larrikin nature right to the end."
Mrs Black said her son's only frustration came in the last month when he became too weak to walk and used a wheel chair to get around.
Mr Black was the wind coach for the Australian team.
This meant setting up the team's rifles and telescopic sights before they shot.
"Last April Rob had six weeks of radiation therapy, which did some good for a time," Mrs Black said.
"The disease came back just before the titles but Rob said he wanted to go ahead with it.
"The tumour was resting on an area that affected his eyes and he was starting to see double.
"He had to wear an eye patch.
"He was also starting to lose his strength."
Despite this Mr Black's coaching throughout the competition was flawless, earning high praise from his team and competition organisers.
But its aggressive nature was obvious and the day after team competition finished he was hospitalised at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Four rounds of chemotherapy could not stop it and three rounds of 'smart drug' therapy, started in February, had no effect.
Last Wednesday his breathing deteriorated and he was taken to hospital but on Friday the family decided to bring him home.
Robbie died that night at home, surrounded by his family.
His funeral service begins at 2pm today.
- March 2011: Robbie discovers he has an inoperable tumour known as a brainstem glioma.
- Chosen as the Australian under-25 team wind coach for the World Long Range Championships
- Begins six weeks of radiation therapy at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. Initially responds to treatment
- October 2011: earns praise for his coaching with the team in very testing circumstances.
- Oct/Nov: Tests reveal rapid and aggressive return of the tumour. Chemotherapy has no impact.
- February: begins 'smart drug' treatment. Completes three rounds of treatment before his death. Also tries alternative remedies such as blended asparagus and jellied sea cucumber extract.
- Symptoms worsen over two months. Has two stints in hospital
- April 13: Discharged from hospital to return home. Dies that night surrounded by his family