Inside Ryan Tandy's fretful final hours: photos

Match-fixer or NRL scapegoat? Desperado gambler or dependable friend? Standover man or gentle giant? RICK FENELEY investigates the rise and fatal fall of the former Wollongong local and rugby league journeyman Ryan Tandy.

Carol Tandy stood at her son's funeral with her head held high and invited mourners to bear witness to a life that the headlines had failed to capture. Ryan Tandy was far from an angel, she said, ''but he wouldn't have wanted a halo anyway''.  Like the rough diamond the media had described, Ryan had many facets, but his mother lamented: ''Some never got to see the whole diamond.'' So she implored those gathered to listen carefully to the tributes and to share their stories, to shed some light on the rest of the diamond – the loyal mate, the dreamer, the ''loveable larrikin''.

The six eulogies on May 7  made no mention of the notorious Ryan Tandy: the Canterbury Bulldogs prop who earned his place in history by corrupting the game of rugby league, the hapless gambler who became the first and only Australian convicted of match-fixing, the journeyman who lived for the sport but who was banned for life by the National Rugby League. The eulogies made no mention of his mates, some of them among the mourners, including his former manager Sam Ayoub, who joined an unprecedented plunge on an exotic betting option in August 2010: the prospect that the North Queensland Cowboys would kick a penalty goal to score the first two points of a match against the Bulldogs. There was no mention of Tandy setting up this supposed sure thing in the first 90 seconds of the match by giving away the penalty, right in front of the posts. If only the Cowboys had done the surest thing, shot for that sitting-duck goal and put the two points in the bank, that obscure wager on a match of no consequence would have paid handsomely.

The eulogies made no mention, either, that in January this year  – a few months before his sudden death at 32 – Tandy was accused of acting as a standover man, the "hired muscle" in an alleged kidnapping to recover a drug debt; not even that two magistrates had shot holes in the case or that Tandy would have vigorously defended the charge, if only he had lived long enough to have his day in court. There was no mention that Tandy, since his release on bail, had spent the last months of his life in distress at police continually pulling him over while he was driving, an almost daily episode at times, according to his lawyer Warwick Korn.  None of the eulogies mentioned Tandy's fondness for cocaine nor his more serious dependence on the painkiller Endone and the anxiety drug Xanax. They didn't mention that Tandy spent the last weekend of his life agitated because Ray Hadley, the top-rating radio 2GB announcer, had named him on air on both the Saturday and Sunday while alerting listeners to tune in to his Monday morning show. Then, Hadley advertised, he would be "returning serve" to sportswriter Josh Massoud who, he claimed, had said disgraceful things about his marriage breakdown on social media. And he would be exploring Massoud's friendship with Tandy.

"Ryan was really down about it," says Damien Monsuere, who was with Tandy that Sunday night and the previous four nights. Massoud had been preparing to release a book on the match-fixing scandal. Tandy was worried Hadley would belittle the book, although Massoud attempted to assure him this wouldn't happen. At Monsuere's flat at Gosford on the NSW Central Coast, Tandy helped his mate set up his iPad. They had one beer together, Monsuere says. When he said goodnight to Tandy at 12.30am, he was expecting him to go to bed in the spare room. But Tandy called from a McDonald's drive-through at 6.40am on the Monday to say he had been unable to sleep, he was heading home to bed and he would be back to see Monsuere at midday.

By the time Hadley went to air with his promised attack – which didn't mention the book – Tandy may already have been dead. Carol Tandy found her son's body in his bed at their home at Saratoga just before 2pm that day, April 28. A coroner will determine the cause of death, but police found nothing to suggest suicide. "No way in the world," says Monsuere. While he considers Hadley's intervention significant, he believes the death was accidental and tragically pointless; that Tandy, having settled himself with prescription drugs, fell into a heavy sleep, during which he vomited. "Endone can do that. It seems he choked on his own vomit and couldn't wake up to save himself."

'Make 'em laugh'

The Palmdale Lawn Cemetery and Memorial Park, less than 30 minutes' drive north of Saratoga, is the final resting place of David Tandy. He died after a long battle with osteoporosis in 1996, when the second of his three sons, Ryan, was 14. Another father figure died two years later. "And since then," Carol Tandy said, "Ryan could barely stand funerals."

His own came too soon. In the Hillside Chapel at Palmdale, one of his eulogists, local footy mate Joel Penny, said he had thought about ''all the crap in the media'' and concluded: ''What if I just got up and told the truth about who Ryan really was? Crazy, I know ...''  Hassan Saleh, who had played alongside Tandy with the St George-Illawarra Dragons in 2003, and who was one of the many who blew good money on that Cowboys bet in 2010, imagined what Tandy would have wanted him to tell the mourners. ''He pretty much said in my mind: 'Don't make 'em cry; make 'em laugh. If you have to swear, swear ...' ''

So they regaled the 250 or more people gathered – many from league, none from NRL officialdom – with rollicking yarns about the kid who "oozed confidence", the off-the-cuff comedian, the prankster who drove the school tractor into the creek at Erina High, at which point ''all parties thought it best he look around for a new school''. At Terrigal High his timetable involved ''a high level of school footy training, numerous periods of surfing, a balance of study periods spent at the Terrigal TAB, and the occasional lesson at school''.

Terrigal High was a nursery for the North Sydney Bears, where Tandy joined the juniors at 16. Here he confounded opponents when, inspired by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber, he packed into a scrum while leading a chorus of the song Mockingbird. ''Everybody, have you heard? ... '' A movie buff, Tandy could re-enact the courtroom scene from A Few Good Men or the dance scene from Boogie Nights. ''He was the first customer at Erina McDonald's to order drive-through Maccas whilst driving in reverse,'' said Penny. Tandy loved his Maccas.

With the Dragons he found buddies who loved a drink and a bet. ''There was a group of about 25 of us there,'' Saleh deadpanned.  The journeyman gathered mates as his career proceeded to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, to the English teams Doncaster, Widnes Vikings, Whitehaven and Barrow, to the Hull Kingston Rovers in the European Super League in 2007, on to five matches for Ireland in the  Rugby League World Cup in 2008, and back to Sydney that year with the Wests Tigers.

''He was the first to admit he was no superstar – not even a natural talent,'' Carol Tandy noted. ''It was his unwavering persistence and dedication to training that got him as far as the NRL.''

It was Tandy's confidence, verging on cockiness, that struck Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy when they met in early 2009. Bellamy reckoned it would be a strength, he told the mourners. He nurtured Tandy and watched as he grew as a player and gravitated to the larrikins in the team, especially to the ''king larrikin'' and star halfback Brett Finch.  "If there was one little thing that put some people off," said Bellamy, "it was his trait to tell you exactly what he thought ... He was probably only there a couple of months and finally got to first grade, and he was telling me who should've been in the team and who shouldn't have been in the team."

When the Storm triumphed over Parramatta in the 2009 grand final, Tandy told John Ribot, the team's founder, it was the best day of his life. Brett Clarke remembers it well. Clarke had been aged about 10 when Tandy was the year ahead of him in the Kincumber Colts on the Central Coast. They became closer in their late teens. ''We had a bit of an Abbott-and-Costello relationship," Clarke tells Fairfax Media. "We were very different personalities. I was a non-drinker, a pretty quiet sort of guy. Ryan wasn't so much a big drinker but he was the life of the party, the comedian, full of life." They gelled. Clarke would become general manager of sales and marketing at the Tigers, where he enjoyed Tandy's company once again in 2008.

"But winning that premiership with the Storm in 2009, that was his life's greatest achievement," says Clarke. "I'll never, ever forget walking into the sheds after that grand final." There was Tandy – not a star but "a toiler with a big engine", as Clarke wrote in a recent blog – brandishing his premiership ring. "How good's this, Clarkey? No one's ever gonna take this off me."

No one ever did. Tandy and his teammates got to keep those rings, but not the premiership. In April 2010, an NRL investigation found the Storm had cheated by paying its players $1.7 million more than  the salary cap over five years. The club was stripped of its 2009 and 2007 premierships. ''He was a shattered man," Clarke recalls. Tandy's pay-packet was modest but he became collateral damage –"the toiler at the bottom of the pyramid" – in the salary cap scandal. "Ryan lost his contract, his security and the culture of the team he loved. It's like taking a child away from his family."

Along with losing his father, it was among the hardest knocks of his life. "He never spoke about things that upset him," Carol Tandy said. "He put on a brave face and escaped into his dream world."

He wasn't one to reach out to his friends for help, Saleh told the mourners, but he was always there to help them. ''When I arrived home with my first-born son," Clarke confirms, "he was the guy on my doorstep to greet us and welcome the new addition to the family. That's the guy we don't read about."

But how do friends reconcile this Ryan Tandy with the one they read about?   "People will make their own judgments, based on what they see and hear," Clarke reasons, but so does he.  He knew a "gentle giant" who worked for the Youth off the Streets charity. He cannot imagine Tandy as an underworld enforcer.  "You know, we never hear the story about the plane that lands safely. We always hear the story about the one that crashes."

The gamblin' man

By Mid-2010, Tandy was losing altitude. At one of Tandy's two trials following the match-fixing scandal, a reckless betting spree was described in the evidence of John Schell, a former racing writer at The Sydney Morning Herald who had moved on to manage a jockey, Michael Rodd. On June 4, 2010, Rodd had called Schell to say Tandy, an old school mate, wanted to place some bets but not in his own name. Tandy had called Schell that afternoon and, noting the Storm salary cap scandal, said words to the effect: "I do not want to leave a money trail ... I am looking at having some bets on the horses and also on some rugby league games." NRL players are explicitly forbidden from betting on NRL games.

Schell agreed – for no fee, he said, just to help out a friend. Schell would place the bets through a big-punting horse owner called Damion Flower. The next day, a Saturday, Tandy called Schell and wanted $5000 – for the win – on Liveandletdie at Flemington. It ran second, so he was down $5000. No matter, Tandy called about 20 minutes later. He wanted $5000 to win on a horse called Title. It ran second. Then he backed Lady's Angel. "Same thing – $5000 to win,'' he had told Schell. Same thing – it ran second.

By now, Damion Flower was sensing a trend: $5000 on short-priced favourites. ''Let me guess,'' he had said when Schell next called that day. ''Five thousand to win on Sky Train." But Schell replied: ''No, he wants $500 each way on Emperor Bonaparte.''

Tandy's selection neither won nor ran a place. The short-priced favourite, Sky Train, did win.

Never mind. Tandy backed the last winner in Brisbane, and by day's end he was showing a small profit. By 9.15am on the Sunday he was back on to Schell, texting both his mobile phones to be sure. Over the next couple of days, Tandy would lose $20,000 on bad NRL bets – on Penrith, the Dragons, the Rabbitohs and the Cowboys. But still there was hope. His old mate Rodd would be riding the favourite, Whobegotyou, in the Stradbroke Handicap the next Saturday. Tandy had $10,000 on the nose. It begot nothing.

That was also the day Tandy signed to join the Bulldogs. By now he owed $30,370 on the past week's bets, as recorded on Schell's hand-written ledger. Tandy was yet to send a cent of it Schell's way. Schell would not comment for this story but a furious exchange of text messages between him and Tandy – tendered as evidence against Tandy – reveal he had good reason to be anxious. He testified that he bumped into Tandy's manager, Sam Ayoub, on June 17 at a strip club in Surfers Paradise and sought his help in recovering the debt. "Any dramas," Ayoub had told him, "let me know and I will get on to it." The dramas were just beginning.

The next night, Schell was in Brisbane for Tandy's first match with the Bulldogs, against the Titans. Tandy had money on it, Schell daring to accept his multi-bet of $3600. Had it succeeded, Schell reasoned, it would have paid $28,000, almost enough to make "things square". Hassan Saleh would later testify in his mate's defence that Tandy placed this bet – and all the other NRL wagers on the ledger – for him. Either way, it did not succeed.

On July 16, Tandy sent Schell a text telling him to "stop f---ing calling and msg me. Your debt with flower is your problem. So pay it stop bringing me into it." Schell fired back: "Wrong. You had bets and stop f---ing me around. Why should I pay $30k you racked up." Tandy volleyed: "Wrong u put bets on with him not me!". Schell texted Ayoub over three nights, threatening, finally on July 21, to go to the Bulldogs. That night Schell went to watch a Danny Green fight at the Moorebank Hotel. He was not expecting to see Damion Flower, but his police statement said Flower took him aside and told him: "You'd want to drop off chasing Tandy for that money. He is tied up with people that you don't want to know. You don't want these types of blokes turning up at your front door."

Schell accepted this well-meant advice and sent Tandy a text that night saying the debt was forgiven, to which Tandy replied: "Sounds good because I didn't want things to get ugly. Anyway all good." It wasn't so good for Schell, whose father had to borrow $20,000 so that, in good faith, they could pay Flower at least that much of Tandy's debt.

Ten days after Schell's retreat, another troubled rugby league journeyman, John Elias – who had twice served jail time for various offences – launched his autobiography, Sin Bin: The Untold Story of a True Footy Bad Boy, in which he came clean about a 1994 match-fixing conspiracy with a fellow ex-prisoner. Elias admitted failing to convince fellow Rabbitohs  to "run dead" against the Magpies. Within four weeks of his book launch, Elias would be in the spotlight again – as one of the punters in the betting plunge that would destroy Tandy's career.

Match-fixing

Bookies and the TAB got a whiff of it in the days before the Bulldogs-Cowboys match in Townsville on Saturday, August 21, 2010. TAB bets on a home team scoring first with a penalty goal normally accounted for 9.1 per cent of wagers. For this match it would be 97.1 per cent. Its price plummeted from $13 on the Thursday to $7 on the Saturday until the TAB alerted the NRL and suspended betting a few hours before the Cowboys kicked off at 7.30pm.

Tandy was tackled 10 seconds into the game. Playing the ball, he "bounced" it between his legs, causing a scrum that gave the Cowboys possession. Tandy gave away the penalty in front of the posts 64 seconds later by failing to quickly enough release a player in a tackle. Rather than kick the certain two-point goal, the Cowboys risked a quick tap and scored a try, for four points, out wide. There was $31,614.06 riding on the goal that never happened. Wagers worth another $25,074.04 were rejected.

On the plane home on the Sunday, Tandy spoke to Bulldogs football manager Alan Thompson about needing to arrange his finances to buy a car. That night, drinkers and staff witnessed Tandy in the Clovelly Hotel's TAB area. He swore, kicked over a chair and thumped the boards over the betting sheets, they told The Daily Telegraph.  Thompson met Tandy on the Tuesday. He would arrange a spreadsheet of Tandy's assets and liabilities, finding he was in the red by almost $75,000, including almost $6000 owed to Harvey Norman, $17,000 to his good mate Joel Penny and $7500 to his agent, Sam Ayoub. Thompson tried to arrange a short-term loan but before week's end the finance company pulled out, judging Tandy too great a risk when the betting scandal broke in the media.

The NRL had asked chief racing steward Ray Murrihy to investigate. Murrihy recognised a few of the punters on CCTV footage gathered from pubs, clubs and TAB agencies. He identified Elias, who had $5100 linked to the Cowboys option, at the Rozelle and Haberfield TABs. Those bets alone might have reaped $98,455. Police searched Tandy's phone records and found a flurry of calls and texts to people who bet on the Cowboys option, and from them to others who joined the plunge. The word had extended to Auckland, where  Shontelle Mankin pushed a pram full of cash into a TAB. Sydney boxer Danny Price would have been relieved that his attempt to wager $15,100 was rejected. He lost the $1700 allowed.

Tandy would always maintain his innocence but he was convicted over the fix, of attempting to obtain financial advantage for others including Ayoub and Elias. Tandy was convicted separately of lying to the NSW Crime Commission – where he described himself as a "social gambler" – about his betting through Schell. Neither crime was punished with jail time.

Four days before the fateful match, Schell had met Alan Thompson and then Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg to raise his concerns about Tandy, though it was not a formal complaint. He believed he had shown them Tandy's betting ledger but he conceded in court that he could not be "100 per cent sure". In May this year the NRL accepted the word of Greenberg – now its head of football –  that he had no knowledge that the player was betting on league games.

Charges were dismissed against Sam Ayoub, his son Jai, John Elias, real estate agent Greg Tait and a Parramatta Eels player, Brad Murray. Murray, then 20, told police that Sam Ayoub – at whose home he lived and who he regarded as father figure – had told him the game was "set up" and to place bets for him. Murray would later say he lied about this after being ''placed under immense pressure and duress'' by Eels officials, although he still confirmed placing $750 on the Cowboys option for Ayoub, his agent. Ayoub had another $90 bet through his own account.

But there was no evidence that any of these punters were complicit in the fix, in what happened on the field, the courts found. And even if they acted on inside information, that was not illegal at the time. (Legislation passed since in NSW has closed that loophole.)

Sam Ayoub did not respond to Fairfax Media and Brad Murray does not want to revisit the scandal. "It's a closed book," says his father, Barry 'Bunk' Murray. His son was dropped by the Eels and spiralled into depression. While he has recovered, and now plays A-grade for West Newcastle, Bunk Murray questions whether the clubs and the NRL met their duty of care to his son or Tandy. "I feel deeply for his poor mother."

Hassan Saleh, who had $400 on the Cowboys option, agreed to an interview but then changed his mind. His eulogy, though, typified the affection and admiration that friends clearly felt for Tandy. Saleh honoured his imagined instruction from Tandy to "make 'em laugh" when he disclosed: "Every person in rugby league knows about this fella's old fella." Tandy was so well endowed, he said, it became NRL folklore. At other funerals it might have been inappropriate, but here it seemed fitting. In his next breath, Saleh finished on a more sombre note: "Now, a lot of his friends, including myself, we have our own little issues. And if anything comes from Ryan's death, I hope we all take a little leaf out of his book and, for his sake, get our own backyards in order. And I think that's the greatest respect we can do for this boy."

'Kidnapping' charge

Tandy was tending to his own "backyard". While under curfew following his arrest in January, he worked hard on a plan for a business in compression garments. He was avoiding gambling and getting fit. He was preparing to travel to Perth to work in a friend's construction business. But that kidnapping charge? Wasn't Tandy keeping bad company on the Central Coast?

"One could say I'm bad company," says Damien Monsuere, "because I've got a criminal record. But everyone's young and dumb once. Some people get caught, some don't." Monsuere, now 27, was 20 when caught with ecstasy and jailed for two years. Tandy, under his bail conditions, was not allowed to associate with Monsuere, so he should not have been at his flat on the night before he died. "But he needed a friend," Monsuere says. "Ryan said to me, 'I didn't commit any kidnapping;  you haven't done anything wrong; you're my mate. Why should I not be able to see you?'."

Monsuere is not charged in the alleged kidnapping affair but the police case against Tandy and a co-accused claims that Monsuere was among those demanding drug money from the accuser. The defence will argue this is a fantasy and seek to have the entire case thrown out. It argues the alleged victim, rather than owing a drug debt, is a self-confessed drug abuser who went missing for weeks over Christmas while owing wages to employees at his electrical contracting firm. The $4500 that he withdrew from his bank and handed to Tandy was money owed to Monsuere in wages and holiday pay, the defence will argue.

Magistrate Alan Railton found "gaping holes" in the prosecution case when freeing the co-accused on bail, as did Magistrate John Chicken when granting bail to Tandy. Stills of security footage from inside the bank showed the alleged kidnap victim unaccompanied and with his mobile phone, and yet he did not take this opportunity to raise the alarm. A witness called Sophie Lane, who identified herself to the court, had delivered a "hit" to the prosecution by saying she was with the alleged victim and the accused men on the night – and saw no threats delivered.

John Korn, who was Tandy's barrister and continues for his co-accused, says: "I've been doing this job now for 34 years at a high level, and I think it is one of the worst cases I've ever seen of so-called 'pro-active, in-your-face policing' gone wrong. I am putting the NSW police on notice that I will be seeking a costs order against them if they continue with these proceedings."

Monsuere says Tandy was not fretting about the case. He was, however, distressed on the last night of his life about Ray Hadley's impending radio attack. "He was noticeably down about this whole f---ing Hadley thing, which gave me the shits because I've never seen the bloke down in the dumps. No matter what he'd been through, he'd always been happy."

Hadley's Monday tirade was much less about Tandy than his mate Josh Massoud, the Daily Telegraph league writer and author of a book about the match-fixing scandal, scheduled for release in September, with Carol Tandy's approval. Hadley and Massoud already had their differences. But now Hadley told listeners that Massoud had been "delighting in my family's misery".

He did not identify the "disgraceful" attacks on social media but they amounted to two Twitter entries. On February 21, Massoud tweeted: "If there's one story I would have liked to have broken in my career, it's this one." It linked to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald about Hadley's wife taking out apprehended violence orders – quickly withdrawn – against Hadley and his policeman son. In a cryptic April 11 tweet, Massoud wrote: "I now worship at the altar of Matt Parish." It had not been reported at the time but it has since emerged that Suzanne Hadley and Parish, assistant coach for the NSW Origin team, began dating after her marriage split.

Hadley told listeners that Massoud's bosses were unimpressed when they learned he became Tandy's "flatmate". (After the Bulldogs sacked Tandy over the betting scandal, and he was evicted from his flat, Massoud gave him temporary shelter.) On the day after Tandy's death, Massoud's tribute did not mention Hadley but he conceded a "professional misjudgement" and that his editor had suspended him until Tandy found somewhere else to live.

Hadley would not comment but Massoud told Fairfax Media that he decided to contact Tandy on the Saturday before his death after "being informed of Hadley's first spray and threats of further rants ... Given how much poor publicity [Tandy had] received, I felt it was unfair and reckless that he cop a complimentary helping in order for Hadley to smear me." Massoud said Tandy initially became "upset and angry", fearing Hadley would bad-mouth the book. But Massoud attempted to assure him that Hadley "would surely not be so generous to give a project of mine free publicity". Instead, Massoud predicted Hadley would "tell the world that Ryan had lived in my spare room for a week in 2011, when Ryan was temporarily unemployed and homeless. Ryan calmed down after being convinced of this and appeared perfectly content when our phone call ended. It was the last time I ever spoke to him."

On the Sunday night, Monsuere took a box of Endone and bottle of Xanax from Tandy's toiletry bag and put them aside "because I was trying to get him to taper down on them". The Endone was helping ease the pain from a recent back operation. They had a beer together. "He had one Corona. I had a Corona with him, and we were just having a laugh, just talking shit." When Monsuere said goodnight about 12.30am, Tandy had just finished setting up his iPad for him. But Monsuere insists Tandy was still agitated about Hadley and he believes this is what made his friend sleepless.

The next morning at home, Tandy kissed his mother before heading to bed. To settle, Monsuere says, he would have resorted to his staple drugs, perhaps taking more than usual. He doesn't know. Painkillers had allowed the journeyman footballer to play on with injuries because, unlike the superstars, he could not afford to miss games. The habit stayed with him. "He said to me if he didn't have Xanax during the betting scandal, and when the media were on his doorstep 24/7, he wouldn't have made it through."

Sport psychologist Robert Brown was Tandy's counsellor. He cannot talk about the individual case but he points out that athletes deal with same pressures as the general population. Some, however, must deal with them "under the scrutiny of a never-blinking – and often unforgiving – public eye".

If not for Tandy's name, Monsuere says, the alleged kidnapping would never have made headlines. Tandy's reputation as a convicted match-fixer preceded him. Monsuere never cornered his mate to demand answers or to tell him what he believed about his guilt or innocence in the Cowboys match. But Monsuere watched the replays. "I saw it with my own eyes. If you look at the footage, it looks as if it was fixed." But he says Tandy had reasoned that he never stood to make a financial gain and believed "he wasn't guilty as charged ... To his credit, Ryan would never give anyone up – if there was anyone to give up. Whatever happened, he was obviously a scapegoat."

Monsuere knew Tandy for the last 18 months of his life. He saw his role as lending support to a friend who needed it. So did Tandy's old mate Brett Clarke, who will not be drawn about what he believes about the Cowboys match. "I thought my job was not to express my view as to his guilt or his innocence, but to continue to be his mate," Clarke says.  Massoud, who has said he does not believe Tandy intended to bring the game into disrepute, wrote in his tribute. "I never told Ryan whether I believed him about Townsville. I never thought it was relevant because I took him as I found him." The Tandy he "found" was not suicidal. "As such, I don't believe he killed himself."

Regardless of the truth about the fix – the crime that made Tandy a household name for all the wrong reasons – Monsuere says: "I don't want people still thinking of him as a paid standover man." On that count, "I want his name cleared."

The rough diamond

Carol Tandy would not be interviewed for this story. Told that we wanted to ensure the full picture, she said: ''I wish you'd thought of that years ago, mate, because Ryan hated the press. They never got it right ... The one bit of information I will give you – and the papers have always got this bit wrong – is that he wasn't born in Wollongong. He was born in Gosford.''

On that sunny day in May, at her son's funeral, Carol Tandy could at last shine some light on the rest of her rough diamond. "He did a lot of good things for charities and such, but evidently they weren't newsworthy," she told the mourners. "Ryan was, when all was said and done, just a man, with all the human failings of us all."

He would have wanted her to finish on a positive note, she said, "because he was such a positive person. He thought I was a pessimist, but I am a realist and Ryan was a dreamer. Ryan could always see the positive in everything ...

''And so I stand before you all, with my head held high, and can proudly say that Ryan Tandy was my son and there was never a moment that he wasn't loved. And thank God for every day he was in my life. He's with his dad now and may he rest in peace.''

smh.com.au

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