Todd Parnell and his mum, Jenny Stirling.
Todd Parnell and his mum, Jenny Stirling. Contributed

Pain raw seven years after footballer's one-punch death

TWO parents, long separated from each other, are joined by grief every anniversary of their son's one-punch death.

It has been seven years since Jenny Stirling and her ex-husband Tony Parnell saw their son Todd Parnell being kept alive by a machine in a Brisbane hospital bed.

Todd died on July 27, 2009, from injuries sustained a day earlier when he was punched once by Wally James Hung at a 21st birthday party at the Bribie Island Warrigals Rugby League Football Club.

The promising rugby league player had played a game for the Warrigals earlier that night before going home to get changed and return to the club for the party.

He had a contract as a junior Brisbane Bronco and was a qualified carpenter.

But that all ended when he was hit.

His organs were donated after his life support was switched off.

They went to help five people live.

Todd was 22.

His attacker was found guilty in 2013 of manslaughter for the drunken punch.

Mr Hung was sentenced to six years and nine months in jail but has been out on parole since May.

Ms Stirling spent more than an hour by her son's grave on Wednesday, talking to him and reflecting on what she said "could have been".

She laid a wreath of wild flowers, as she does every year.

She was supported by a close friend and received messages of support from her friends and Todd's friends throughout the day.

"It is really important that I hear from his mates," Ms Stirling said

"I just don't want them ever to forget - and they won't."

Her daughter Tara Parnell called her from Italy, crying that she couldn't be with her for the anniversary.

But Tara assured her mum she would she would light a candle at the Vatican in Todd's memory.

Ms Stirling said many things at her home had not changed since her son's death.

His ute is still there, his clothes are still in the cupboard and his shoes are at the front door.

"I know it's crazy but some things I just can't finish off yet."

Meanwhile, Mr Parnell visited Todd's grave on Tuesday, marking seven years since the day his son was hit.

"It just seems like it was yesterday," Mr Parnell said.

"People say you get over it but you don't.

"You live with it until the day you die.

"You are not supposed to bury your kids, they are supposed to bury you."

Todd was the second child Ms Stirling and Mr Parnell had lost to tragedy, with their toddler son Adam killed in a traffic incident before Todd was born.

Ms Stirling said she wanted young people, especially boys of high school age, to know the devastating consequences just one punch could cause.

She said she saw Todd's mates maturing and doing things like having children.

"He missed all of that through a single punch."

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