UWHnews was saddened to learn of the death of Derek Fitzgerald , in a helicopter accident. A former Bocks U24 captain and Durban Underwater hockey player, Derek was a role model for his teammates. We would like to thank the President of the South African Underwater Hockey Federation, Heine Engelbrecht, for his help in this tragic moment. More than an article, we felt it was important to highlight those who knew Derek in the hockey world, to give them a platform, to pay tribute to a person who was more than a teammate.
"To the man, the myth, the legend. Derek you were one of the best teammates we could ask for, a gentleman that everyone strived to be and a friend that cannot be replaced. D – you were cherished by everyone in the UWH community. You made tournaments better with your humour and your readiness to always help. You had the ability to help people when we did not know that we needed help. You were the man that made us be better and more importantly made us strive to be better. You were always there for us. You never gave up and always gave it your all; we will miss you in- and out- of the water. There is a gap in our community, a hole in our hearts and we will always be grateful to have had you in our lives. Having played Worlds with you was a privilege. We will always love and cherish the moments we had with you brother! We will miss you! My deepest condolences to Gary, Aunt Les and Nicole. We are all thinking of you. Jean-Pierre du Toit South Africa, Age Group Worlds 2017"
"O captain! My captain! Derek, you were not only a captain, but a true friend. Not only a team mate, but a brother. You were a light that went out to soon. Everywhere you went you made people smile and laugh. You inspired other to do what’s right, even when they didn’t notice it. You helped out even when no one expected you to, always with a smile on your face. From the moment I met you I have never heard a selfless words come from your mouth. When you were the captain of our team in 2015 you always looked at the positives of each match, never mentioning someone’s bad flick, but rather their impressive swim. Again when we were team mates in 2017 you were the cheerful one! Keeping the teams spirits up when we were down. You would always make sure everyone else was ok before you looked at yourself. At the local tournaments you were always a friendly face in the opposing team. Win or lose you’d greet the other team after the match with respect and friendliness. For a better captain I could not have asked and for a better friend I could not expect. You will be missed in the water, and even more so out of the water. There is a hole not only in the sport, but in our under water hockey family that will never be filled. You will be missed. My condolences to Gary, Les and Nicole. We are all thinking of you. O captain! My Captain! Till we meet again in the big blue pool beyond." Eckhard Engelbrecht. South Africa, Age group worlds 2015 & 2017
"To Derek “D-Rizzle” Fitzgerald In 2014, at a senior national’s tournament, I had the pleasure of meeting you, Derek, alongside the pool for the first time when we were trialling for the u/19 national team. You first complimented me on my gear and then proceeded to point out the correct way of putting the elastic around my stick. From that moment on, there was a connection. You were first my benchmark, the guy I needed to beat until I realized that you were completely out of my league. Your knowledge of the game, your cool/calm mentality and your careful watching eye made you a formidable foe however this did not stop me from learning by your example and striving to get onto the same level. From that tournament on, we had a close friendship and others often did not see us apart except when we were clashing underwater. You had a heart-warming laugh, were often joking around and gently poked fun at me which was what a shy guy like me needed at a somewhat early age. After some tough games where I was struggling to perform, you would encourage me and pushed me to try my best. It broke my heart when I was not selected for the team during junior nationals, knowing that my dear friend, who was later elected as captain, was going on an amazing tour with some fantastic players alongside him made me sad but I knew full well that you deserved to be there, in that team leading them. Funny enough, it was you who unintendedly allowed me to be reconsidered for a spot for the national team. Through you simply inviting me to join a small KZN underwater hockey tournament, my love of the sport, me maintaining my fitness and skill which you contributed in building, I was able to perform at a level that made it apparent that I was able to fill in that spot. You unknowingly allowed me to achieve one of my greatest dreams in life and I will never forget that. The tour we spent together was unforgettable; our friendship became a brotherhood. We helped each other, strengthened each other, gave each other support but most importantly had fun together. Those memories will be with me forever. Although we drifted apart over those next few years, I made it my mission to visit you each time I was in town. I met your family, and they were caring enough to give me a home and food for each visit. They became very dear to me through our friendship, and I was able to grow relationships with them too. Each time there was a tournament coming up, I would ask myself if you were going before asking myself if I was even going to participate. It will sadden me seeing a number 12 cap knowing that it was your number, but this will not be the end of our rivalry, I know that I will continue to push myself to be as great as you were, and I will think of you each time I get into the water. Not only were you an exceptional player but you were a beautiful person, you drew people in, connected with them, cared for them, and wanted the best for everyone. You put a lot of time and effort into those who needed help and taught many the wonderful game we play, those players were truly blessed to have been coached by you. Your commitment to your club and South African underwater hockey was phenomenal, you will truly be missed. My brother, you lived life to the fullest, you had made many friendships and touched many hearts. Grief is the price we pay for love but in the future, we will smile, laugh and cry tears of joy each time we think of you and see the many memories we had made with you. I know God has rewarded you for the hard work you had done for your church and for keeping true to Him and His word. Rest well my man, will truly miss you."
From your friend from the Eastern Cape and brother in hockey. Josh Wattrus