I’m still very much struggling to take onboard the shocking news of the untimely passing of my friend Craig, and struggling even more to find the words to do justice to a life so full of joy and achievement. So I’ll leave that to others better equipped to cope in these shockingly heart wrenching situations.
Instead, I just want to share with you a few words on why Craig was such a special lad, and why he found his way into the hearts of so many of us fortunate enough to have shared his journey in this wonderfully bittersweet sport of ours.
Craig was, at heart, a very gentle soul, with so many God given talents. Yes, he was one of the world’s bravest and best behind the steering wheel, but what made him special was so much more than that.
He was a good lad, with a heart as big, as open and as welcoming as anyone I’ve met in this sport, and that’s what made him special.
In a sporting environment full of egos and undeserving bravado Craig was still the boy next door, still as excited by this sport as the young fans he connected so effortlessly with. Still grounded. Still grateful.
He was a caring soul who wasn’t afraid to show his emotions. He quite literally carried the weight of Jaffa’s passing with him daily and was never afraid, or ashamed, to shed a public tear in memory of, or as a dedication to, his lost rallying brother. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to shed a tear with him at those painfully poignant stop-line moments.
Who couldn’t love Craig?
Craig connected with people in a way that I don’t think anyone else in our sport ever has or ever will again. It was all so effortless – a quick disarming smile, those sparkling, dancing eyes and then that gloriously easy charm and wit.
Eloquence is something that a lot of us strive for yet few of us achieve.
It came easily to Craig.
It was maybe his biggest talent and most endearing quality. It shouldn’t be possible to put everything on the line, with ultimate focus, concentration and commitment, and then a few seconds later, at the stop-line, charm the pants off the watching world with some of the most eloquent, amusingly entertaining, almost poetic one liners you’ll hear anywhere.
Craig was a bit of a freak really. Nerves of steel when the lights turned green, but at heart the loveliest, kindest, most gentle person you could ever hope to meet – the kind of best friend we all hope we will one day be lucky enough to have in our lives.
In whatever context you saw Craig, you were effectively looking at his mum and his dad. That smile, those eyes, that easy charm, all reflected almost perfectly in his mum Jackie. That steeliness, that determination, that dedication, you could have been looking at a younger version of his dad Ray.
As much as I loved Craig, I love his parents just as much. There was always a hearty Irish hug whenever I bumped into Jackie and always a welcoming smile and cheeky grin from Ray.
They were both so fiercely proud of their boy and right now I cannot even begin to comprehend what they must be going through.
All of us will forever carry a little piece of Craig in our hearts but for Ray, Jackie and his sister Kellie, in their hearts there will be a hole, so painful and devastatingly difficult to mend that it’s almost incomprehensible.
We have lost one of the greats of our sport, but they have lost a cherished son and brother. The depth of their grief is, for me, unfathomable and I dearly hope that they take some small solace form the outpouring of genuine love from across the world that Craig’s loss has evoked.
Like many others, I loved you Craig and I will miss your friendship, your warmth and your goodness forever.
I’m a spiritual person as you are and I know we will meet again someday.
Until then, go easy with all of our love and rest in peace my dear friend.