Good-bye little mate Zorba 21Jul07 MICHAEL Monaghan played in last night's NRL match against the Sharks with a broken heart following the death last Sunday of his 10-year-old mate Johnnie Sussanna. Eagles' hooker Michael Monaghan is a frequent and welcome visitor to Johnnie's old school Arranounbai (main picture). Johnnie Sussanna, pictured above right, was Monners' fan but not an uncritical one. Monaghan was shattered to learn of his untimely death, attending the 10-year-old's funeral yesterday. The Sea Eagles hooker went to the Children's Hospital at Randwick last Sunday to visit Johnnie after he was admitted a few days earlier with an infection. It was Monners' day off but something inside him said he should go and visit his young friend. He knew something was wrong when he found Johnnie's father Agostino sobbing in the hospital corridor. ``He was a beautiful boy. He was a fighter and his death was so unexpected after what he has gone through from the first months of his life,'' Monaghan said. ``I can't believe he is gone. Only last week he was telling me to lift my game as far as the referees go. ```Be more respectful,' he'd say to me. Johnnie was a little boy but he was so intelligent and had packed a lot into his 10 years.'' For Johnnie Sussanna and for many boys and girls with illnesses and disabilities the Sea Eagles are their inspiration and sporting interest. And Michael Monaghan is their champion. He goes beyond the call of duty out of a genuine desire to make a difference with these beautiful children. ``Little Johnnie Sussanna has just passed away mate,'' Michael told me on the phone last Sunday. ``I came to give him a lift and he's gone. I'm gutted. I loved that kid - he had so much courage.'' Yesterday, we went to say good-bye to Johnnie with family and friends at St John Apostle Catholic Church at Narraweena. The teachers, family and friends of the Arranounbai School at Frenchs Forest were there in numbers. These people have shared Johnnie's life from the time he was four when he started at the special needs school in the early learning program. It was at Arranounbai that Monners met his mate. And since their first meeting he has visited the Sussanna home for birthdays and special occasions. Whenever Michael Monaghan pulled on the maroon and white at Brookvale he knew Johnnie would be beside his dad cheering him on. The passion of Agostino Sussanna for the Sea Eagles flowed onto his son, who despite his multitude of illnesses became a keen student of the game. So good was Johnnie's progress at Arranounbai that he left the school last year to go into a mainstream school at St Johns at Narraweena together with his sister Victoria. Again, his bright personality and willingness to learn made him a highly popular student. Yesterday, was a tough one for a lot of people on the peninsula. From his early days Johnnie Sussanna was front-page news. He was born with rare congenital condition and spent the first 15 months of his life in a ventilator at the Children's Hospital in Westmead. The local community rallied to help the family raise funds to assist in getting the little fella to a Children's Hospital in St Louis, Missouri, where he underwent a lung transplant operation. I reckon they added an extra heart while they were at it. The Manly players sign thousands of jerseys in a year for kids. This week they signed a jersey and a ball at the request of Michael Monaghan so Johnnie could take part of his beloved Sea Eagles with him. Monners said little on the long drive to Cronulla after the funeral service to meet up with his team mates and prepare for the game against the Sharks. He was not in an cheerful frame of mind to play football but he would do his level best by his little mate.