The brother of a footy star who tragically died aged just 20 after a horror on-field collision has revealed his selfless sibling will save the lives of a baby boy and teenager as an organ donor.
Antonio Loiacono was playing for the Birdwood Football Club in South Australia’s Hills Football League when he suffered critical injuries from a collision in the fourth quarter.
He was treated by specialist paramedics at Gumeracha Oval, 35km north-east of Adelaide, with his heart stopped for 30 minutes.
After being revived, he was then rushed via helicopter to the Royal Adelaide Hospital late on Saturday night, but tragically was declared brain dead at 3pm on Sunday.
His heartbroken 19-year-old younger brother Jack Loiacono said the Adelaide tradie sustained the critical injury as he went to pick up the ball in the side’s game against Gumeracha.
20-year-old South Australian Antonio Loiacono (left) has died after a collision in a footy game – and his heartbroken brother Jack (right) has revealed his brother, an organ donor, will selflessly save two lives
Loiacono, pictured playing for country footy club Waikerie, was injured in a game for Birdwood at Gumeracha Oval, in the Adelaide Hills region
The footy mad star had represented SANFL club Norwood at under 18s level and was a promising utility before the tragic incident
Loiacono (right) in a happy snap with Tigers star Jayden Short while on holiday in Koh Samui, Thailand
‘The hit was so intense he went into cardiac arrest on the spot. He wasn’t able to breathe for himself,’ Jack said.
But out of the immense tragedy comes a silver lining: the family were told that because Antonio was an organ donor, he will save two lives, including that of a baby.
‘Because he’s an organ donor, we still have some time left with him until later tonight,’ Jack said.
‘He’s saving a baby boy and a 19-year-old, so that’s good news.’
Jack took to social media on Monday to share his anguish over the brother he called ‘my other half, my best friend and the person I look up to most’.
‘Words can’t describe the pain we all feel, you’re loved by so many. You will always be in my heart and I’ll talk to you everyday,’ he wrote.
‘Your aura was so special and would put a smile on anyone’s face around him. You are the most caring, thoughtful person I’ve come across and always looked out for me.
‘I’m so grateful for everything you’ve done and helped me through you’re my guidance and always will be. Everything I do from this day forward is for you; I love you so, so much ‘Tones’.’
Loiacono was every bit the much-loved, effervescent 20-year-old South Australian.
His social media pages show a young man with a zest for life, and a love for travel, music, mates and, of course, footy.
Loiacono was every bit the much-loved, effervescent 20-year-old South Aussie before his life was taken too soon
Jack Loiacono (right) said his brother Antonio (left), also known as ‘Tones’, was loved by everyone who knew him
And his bittersweet, selfless last acts fits with how Jack will remember his brother: kind, caring and compassionate.
‘He just wanted to make sure everyone was having a positive time. He would wear the loudest shirt, the goofiest shoes. He was so unique,’ he said.
‘Everyone who knew him loved him. He was just the most respectful, loving and caring person.
‘He lit up the room and put smiles of everyone’s faces when he walked in.’
The talented utility represented SANFL club Norwood at under 18s level in 2019, and had also played for top Riverland Football League club Waikerie before moving to Hills powerhouse, Birdwood.
Loiacono was playing his first game for the Roosters in their twilight fixture against rivals Gumeracha, and tragically, his mother was in the crowd when the collision happened.
But brother Jack said it was at least ‘humbling’ to learn his brother had died doing something he undeniably loved.
‘He lived and breathed it,’ he said of his brother’s love of footy.
That being said, Aussie Rules was also a passion that resulted in Loiacono sustaining several serious concussions, which meant he had to give up the sport when he was about 15 before returning to the game with tragic consequences.
‘His last one, which happened a few years ago was pretty bad. For a day or two, he had vomiting and memory loss but nothing as bad as this,’ Jack said.
The footy mad youngster, pictured with brother Jack at the recent Swans v Tigers game at the Adelaide Oval for Gather Round, played for Birdwood, which is based in the Adelaide Hills region
Birdwood said that while Loiacono had only been at the club a short time, he had made an immeasurable impact.
‘The BFNC would like to express our sincere condolences to Wendy, Sal, Jack and Allana and the extended family of Antonio Loiacono at this very difficult time,’ the club said in a statement on social media.
‘Antonio was only with our Club for a few months but his leadership and care for his new team will have a lasting impact.
‘Rest in Peace Antonio.’
Family and friends, who have been rocked by the tragedy, paid homage to the much-loved friend, brother and son.
‘Thinking of you Jack and your family mate a such a heartbreaking time. Tones was a such a great person always had a smile, so respectful and full of character and time to come say Hi. He will be very sadly missed and he will always be in your heart mate,’ one friend wrote.
‘He always had time for everyone, was always so polite and lovely. Seriously taken too soon. Rest in paradise Tone,’ commented another, while Loiacono’s aunt Nicole Wheatland said she was lucky to call ‘Tones’ a nephew.
‘Antonio was one of the most loving beautiful souls I’d had the pleasure of calling my nephew. Taken to soon you are in my love and thoughts,’ she said.
Another friend spoke of the ‘special bond’ the pair shared, while many agreed that ‘Tones’ would be ‘so proud’ of Jack.
Antonio’s (right) brother Jack (left) shared memories of the two together
A nearby country footy league, which plays in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, said the Birdwood club, based in Adelaide’s picturesque Hills region, was in their thoughts in a time of ‘unbelievable sadness’.
‘The Great Southern Football League forwards it sincere condolences to the family and friends of Birdwood Football Club player Antonio Loiacono,’ the league posted on social media.
‘Community Football is what we live for and this is a truly sad time when a player is cut down by an unfortunate on field incident, no matter what level of the game.
‘Our collective thoughts are with his family and the Birdwood Football Club at this time of unbelievable sadness.’
Fellow Hills Football League club Onkaparinga also shared their sadness at the tragedy and rallied behind their rival club.
‘The Committee, members, players and friends of the Onka-Valley Football Club are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Antonio Loiacono from the Birdwood Football Club after an incident Saturday,’ the club said.
‘Our thoughts are with all from the Birdwood Football Club, and as a fellow Hills Football League Club we stand with you in this sad time. RIP Antonio.’
‘Community football is what we live for and this is a truly sad time when a player is cut down by an unfortunate on-field incident, no matter what level of the game,’ the league shared in Facebook post.
Our collective thoughts are with his family and the Birdwood Football Club at this time of ‘unbelievable sadness’.
Adelaide Hills Mayor Jan-Claire Wisdom said her thoughts were ‘with Antonio’s family and friends today after the incident at Gumeracha oval on Saturday’.
‘Our thoughts also go out to the Birdwood Football Club community who will be shocked and saddened by this tragic event,’ she said.