Mates call last drinks on Bali anniversary

Each afternoon, for 2½ years, Kevin Paltridge would retreat to the bosom of his mates and pints of beer at the Kingsley Tavern. It was a sad yet comforting ritual for a group of men whose lives had been torn apart by the Bali bombings.

What was supposed to be a riotous end-of-season blow-out for Perth's Kingsley football club turned into unfathomable agony. Seven members of the suburban AFL team had died in the attacks, including Paltridge's son Corey, 20, who had received approval for his first home loan the night before he left. He was planning to settle down with his girlfriend Casey.

''I'd come here every day at about two to three o'clock and get home any time between seven and 9pm, seven days a week for 2½ years,'' said Paltridge, holding a pint. ''I had friends down here; they all understood what I was going through. They took me under their arm and [said], 'We'll help you by having a drink with you'. All the wrong things, but that was how we coped.''

Paul Adams, Corey's close friend and business partner, was another of the drinkers. He had hardly known the 19 Kingsley football players he joined on the trip, going on a whim and buying a one-way business-class ticket at the last minute.

He had gone back to their hotel to get cigarettes when the bombs exploded, returning to search frantically for Corey in the aftermath.

He formed a close bond with the players he'd barely known. He attended every home game and helped organise donations and labour to build memorial clubrooms.


But the drinking became so bad that Adams - who had stopped working amid debilitating grief - began to sell assets, including his beloved cars, to fund his booze bill.

For both men, it was a situation that could not continue.

Kevin Paltridge's wife, Pat, delivered an ultimatum: the family would move an hour south of Perth or he would drink himself to death.

While Paltridge kept up his links with the club and coached teams, Adams eventually withdrew entirely.

Unable to shed the shackles of guilt, sorrow and despair, Adams hoped letting go of the club would earn a reprieve from the pain.

''I felt like I was falsifying my friendship with these people, and what, because of Bali?'' Adams said.

''[So] I've shut myself away … for the last two or three years.''

The only drinking Adams did was with Corey, visiting his grave at Pinnaroo cemetery every month or so, popping the top off a bottle of beer and turning it upside down.

But, in August this year, Adams re-emerged to attend the club's 30th anniversary Legends Game.

''I did all right [at the game] but I went home and I lost it,'' he said. ''Watching the boys run around, [he thought] 'Just get me out of here, just get me out of here'.''

The game brought memories of a promise to the Kingsley clubmen several days after the bombing.

''I spoke to the boys that night and we made a pact, probably four days after the bomb, before they flew out,'' Adams said. ''We all vowed to go back on the 10th anniversary and [then] call it quits.''

Paltridge will return to honour Corey and ponder how his life might have turned out if he had not been in the Sari Club that night.

''I talk to him every day,'' said Paltridge, a burly man with his son's image tattooed on his arm. ''It hurts like shit, all the stuff that we missed out on because of these bloody idiots.''