Mates devastated by digger's death

THE news of the death of Gympie digger Ashley Birt in Afghanistan has hit his Gympie-based friends hard.

The 22-year-old was highly active in the Gympie community in particular the sporting community.

He excelled in most sports, but hockey was his first love.

Good friend and hockey team-mate Kaden Dickfos was devastated by the news, of Ashley's death.

He said he will always remember his best mate.

"We used to spend every weekend together, before he joined the armed forces," Kaden said.

"He was so honest and reliable. He never stopped, he made everything seem fun. I will miss him."

Kaden said he had played hockey and cricket with Ashley since he was four.

Some of the best times he had with Ashley was while travelling to and from Maryborough together.

The pair played hockey for Brothers in the Maryborough competition to gain more experience while Gympie's competition was rebuilding.

"We went to play in Maryborough when we were 12 and played there for five years," he said.

"That's what I will remember most, the trips to Maryborough and home.

"It was a lot of fun and he was always happy. We looked through a lot of photos yesterday (Sunday), he was always laughing."

Kaden said the last time he saw his best mate was at a barbecue before he was deployed to Afghanistan.

Gympie Hockey president Ian Wenzel said the hockey community was devastated by the news.

"Both Birt boys played hockey through the juniors and the Birt family was very involved in the club," Mr Wenzel said.

He said Ashley was selected in the Australian Defence Force hockey side and was also selected as a shadow for Australian Country under-21 side.

"We find it hard to comprehend what has happened. It is a tragic event. Ashley will be remembered as a good, quality player who was an asset to the association."

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