In January, just three weeks after finishing a course of chemotherapy, Dylan Tombides represented Australia in an under-22 soccer tournament in Oman.
His doctors were amazed, but for the 20-year-old's family and friends it was just another example of the determination that saw him rise through the ranks to make his Premier League debut for West Ham while undergoing treatment for testicular cancer.
As hundreds gathered in Perth yesterday to farewell Dylan, who died on April 18, his loved ones told how his strength never wavered throughout the three-year illness.
Jim Tombides said his son used to tell teammates: "Why do you say the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the Moon?"
Mr Tombides said there was "no justice in the world" that he, wife Tracylee and son Taylor had lost their son and brother so young.
"Your charm, your charisma, your smile, your infectious laugh . . . he was one in a million," he said in a moving eulogy at Pinnaroo cemetery. "My heart is broken into a thousand pieces."
Dylan's cousins Jason Bondi and Alex Christian shared childhood memories: dressing up as Wiggles and Power Rangers, racing go-karts, kicking countless soccer balls over the back fence and synchronising sick days from school.
Mr Christian said he would treasure the memories of a holiday with Dylan last year in Britain, where the Tombides family settled after leaving Perth in 2007.
For best friend Robbie Faller, "Didge", as Dylan was known, made everyone who knew him a better person.
"Dylan's strength, resilience and determination were second to none, evidenced in the fight for his dream to become a professional footballer," he said.