Football mate recalls Oliver Bridgeman as ‘normal guy’

THE Oliver Bridgeman who moved back to Toowoomba last year is not the one who shared the football field with Josh McKay.

Mr McKay, 18, played junior football with Bridgeman and was part of the team which represented the Darling Downs in 2011.

His memories from the playing fields are the opposite of those from last year when Mr McKay shared a maths class with Bridgeman at Harristown High School.

"He was just a normal guy, nice and friendly, and we were good mates at footy," Mr McKay said.

"He went to St Mary's then and was part of the popular group and was liked by everyone."


He and Bridgeman played for Brothers Rugby League and went on to represent the Darling Downs in the sport in 2011.

Mr McKay said they were close friends, but that changed when Bridgeman suddenly moved to the Gold Coast.

"One year he just left," Mr McKay said.

When his former team-mate moved back to Toowoomba, it wasn't the same kid whose skills as a second row forward helped win the football team its regional premiership in 2011.

"He went from being a really outgoing, popular guy who was really into his footy to someone really reserved," Mr McKay said.

"Me and my mate asked if he was going to get back into footy but Oli just said no, he didn't do sport or anything anymore.

"He said he was just going to focus on his school."

Mr McKay recalled Bridgeman was often absent from a Friday afternoon maths class which started shortly before 3pm.

"He was never there and would always sign himself out," he said.

"When we'd ask him why he wasn't there, he would say he just signed himself out and was hanging out with his uni friends."

Mr McKay said he was shocked at reports Bridgeman was believed to have joined a terrorist fighting group in Syria.

"It was pretty crazy because I just didn't really expect it from Oli," he said.

"He wasn't really someone you would expect for that to happen."

He said it was possible Bridgeman was doing humanitarian work in Syria which he had done in Indonesia beforehand.

But if Mr McKay could send one message to his former team-mate, it would be to stay safe and "keep your head down".

"I'd like to believe it was for the humanitarian work but I'm not sure," he said.

"With all the stuff coming out with his other page, I'm just not sure.

"Hopefully, he is alright and can sort something out."


Topics:  editors picks isis oliver bridgeman syria

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