Docker s debut for mate
Stephen Rigg's father, Phil, with Max Duffy after the game.

As Max Duffy prepared to make his debut for the Fremantle Dockers on Saturday, he got a text message with the initials "SJR".

It was from Phil Rigg, the father of Duffy's good mate Stephen Jack Rigg, who died suddenly in 2011 aged just 17 and whose memory is a source of continuing inspiration for the 21-year-old footballer.

The 24 on his jumper marks the date in January 2011 when Stephen died in Royal Perth Hospital, eight days after an ectopic heartbeat caused him to collapse at a cricket match.

Duffy was a regular visitor to hospital when Stephen was in an induced coma and since his death has kept in regular contact with the Rigg family.

Yesterday he donated half his match payment from his debut to HeartKids WA, a support group for families of children with heart disease.

Mr Rigg recalled yesterday how Duffy visited them at Christmas in 2012 to tell them of his decision to choose the number 24 in Stephen's honour.

"I just looked at him and thought 'your world's just changed for ever and for you to think of that, it's just amazing'," Mr Rigg said.

He said he would not have missed Duffy's debut for the world and on Saturday he was in Geelong cheering when the debutant was subbed on to the ground in the third quarter.

"I must admit, I cried," Mr Rigg said.

"It's wonderful, humbling and inspiring. I caught myself reflecting at the weekend on the plane home and thought, 'Geez, I'm lucky that Stephen lives on in him'."

Duffy told Mr Rigg he thought immediately of Stephen after kicking his first AFL goal and in an emotional interview after the game, he said his mate was never far from his thoughts.

"I'm proud to have played, to have done it for him is very good . . . and to have Phil here tonight supporting me means a lot," he told Docker TV.

Mr Rigg visited the rooms after the game, which Fremantle lost by two points, to congratulate Duffy on his two goals.

He believed his sports-mad son, a talented cricketer, was looking down and would have been extremely proud.

Mr Rigg was so caught up after the game, he missed the last train to Melbourne and spent the night wandering the streets until morning, but said it was worth every second.

Duffy also revealed after the game that his mother, who is climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, was yet to hear the news of his impressive debut.

"Mum, if you see this . . . I've played, I was the sub, and I came on and kicked a few goals, but we lost by two points," he said in a video posted on the Dockers' website.

The West Australian

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