Former ACT Brumbies captain Stephen Hoiles says he still carries guilt of Shawn Mackay's death after spending 10 years wondering about the 'what ifs' of a tragic night in South Africa.
The guilt of a captain who was injured and unable to be with his team in South Africa. The guilt of losing a childhood mate. The guilt of wanting to be able to go back in time to change things.
A touching tribute to Mackay and his family at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night brought those emotions back to the surface for Hoiles, who was part of a 2009 reunion to remember a fallen teammate.
It was the first time in a decade the squad had gathered as a group to pay their respects to Mackay, who died after being hit by a car on the team's tour of South Africa.
The Brumbies organised to present Mackay's parents, John and Leonie, the playing cap Mackay never got to receive. His Brumbies number 118 was stitched into the side as a reminder of his place in the club's history.
For Hoiles, it was a chance to reflect on one of the toughest times of his life.
"It's funny when you talk about it again, even after all of this time," Hoiles said.
"You feel a whole lot of emotions again. The beauty of that Brumbies squad we had in 2009 was that everyone was together. The club was so strong with training hard together and enjoying the good and bad times together.
"I've always worn a lot of guilt over it, you think about it at different times and the reality is that everyone who was there that night feels some responsibility in some way. I wasn't there and I probably felt more responsible because of that.
"It's a moment in time you'd want to change if you had it again, but we don't get the luxury of that."
Mackay was out with several teammates in Durban when he was hit by a car in the early hours of the morning. He died a week after the accident.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of his death and past players reached out to the Brumbies about organising a way to mark the moment and pay their respects.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar opened up the change rooms to the past players and Mackay's family after the clash against the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium for a touching presentation of the cap marking Mackay's history as a Brumby.
The bulk of the 2009 squad was there, some returning to the capital for the first time since leaving the club, and 10 staff members attended. Those who couldn't make it, including former coaches Andy Friend and Tony Rea, sent heartfelt messages.
Current Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said the 2009 reunion and stories the players shared about Mackay was a reminder of the family atmosphere he wanted his squad to be a part of. "We want Shawn's family to have that peace of mind that Shawn is always a part of this club," McKellar said.
"We're playing good footy at the moment and we want to keep winning, but what this reunion shows is that there's a whole lot more to life than winning.
"You've got to remember that each and every day. The good times don't last forever, you have to make sure you take the opportunity [of finals] that's presented in front of us."