27 September 2020

Rugby club falls silent to remember police officer and ‘role model’ Matt Ratana

27 September 2020

Members of East Grinstead Rugby Club (EGRFC) have paid tribute to Sergeant Matt Ratana, who was an “irreplaceable figure” in the community and a “role model to many”.

Multiple tributes were laid outside the clubhouse and two periods of silence – for junior and senior club members – were held on Sunday morning, in memory of the Met Police officer who was shot by a handcuffed suspect in a custody suite.

The club flag was flown alongside the New Zealand flag and the All Blacks rugby team flag to honour Sgt Ratana’s roots.

Tributes at East Grinstead Rugby Club (PA Wire)

Ryan Morlen, 31, assistant head coach at EGRFC, said that the news would “take time to process” but the close-knit club had pulled together.

“It’s tough really with the loss of Matt, he’s an irreplaceable figure,” he said.

“The club here, from juniors, seniors, to the women’s team they’re going to really miss Matt. It’s going to take time to process.

“As a community he brought a lot of things together. I spoke to Matt every single day… and there are thousands of people out there that really looked up to him.

“As a community we’re unbelievably close and the minute we found out the news we pulled together and that’s the type of club East Grinstead is.

“Nothing is enough to show how much we loved that guy and how much of a role model he was to many, and he really was.”

Players observe a minute’s silence at East Grinstead Rugby Club (PA Wire)

Pc Sarah D’Silva, who plays as a winger for the club’s women’s team, laid a signed Metropolitan Police jacket alongside the other tributes and received applause from players and other club members

Speaking to the PA news agency, Pc D’Silva, 26, who also works at Croydon police station, said that coming down to the club for the memorial silence was especially “poignant” for her.

“He was an absolutely fantastic character, full of life with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen and a fantastic mentor on the rugby field and for the police as well,” she said.

“Any question was never too much for Matt and it’s deeply saddening to know from such a deeply tragic event has resulted in the loss of Matt’s life.

“I can’t put into words how shocked I am and also the colleagues that are beside me in the blue line family. It’s a completely tragic event.”

It comes as commemorations take place across the UK for National Police Memorial Day.

Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick laid a wreath at the National Police Memorial in central London, alongside Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and Home Secretary Priti Patel at the National Police Memorial in London (PA Wire)

Pc D’Silva added that she stood in her uniform “with pride” and that the reaction of the club community to Sgt Ratana’s death had been “phenomenal”.

“We’ve all stood on the pitch for our minute’s silence today and seeing everybody who’s actually turned out today at the club is absolutely phenomenal, in respect of Matt,” she said.

“As an officer we stand with pride in our uniform and today I stand with pride in my uniform for Sergeant Ratana but I also stand with pride at this club.

“He would have wanted us to carry on and today, that is exactly what we’ve done.”

In a statement released on Friday the club said it was “utterly devastated” by the news and asked to be given time to “comprehend” the situation.

“Matt was an inspiring and much-loved figure at the club and there are truly no words to describe how we are feeling,” it said.

“We would like to take some time as a club and community to begin to comprehend what has happened.

“Our deepest and sincerest condolences go to Matt’s loved ones, family, friends, colleagues and to our community rugby family at this most terrible time.”

Players and club officials following a minute’s silence at East Grinstead Rugby Club (PA Wire)

Club vice-chairman Matt Marriott told BBC Breakfast: “I’ve actually never met anybody quite like Matt, he must have been an incredible policeman.

“His attention to detail and his strive for perfection, his work ethic, just blew all of us away.”

Following the wreath-laying, Dame Cressida highlighted Sgt Ratana’s sporting enthusiasm as a “proud Kiwi”.

“He was a truly great sportsman and a leader in sport. Sport of course takes you into wider worlds,” she said.

“He was a proud Kiwi… and played sport all over the place.

“Those worlds, the sporting world and the London communities world – perhaps I don’t know quite so much about that – but as a police officer, so many people knew how good he was and he’ll be sorely, sorely missed.”

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