Rhys Marshall never thought twice about trying to help a drunk, agitated man who was arguing with his girlfriend during a night out in May 2009.
But when Rhys tried to stop the man from hitting his head on a pole in the south west Victorian town of Ballarat, he was felled by a punch, hitting his head on the cobblestones.
His short battle for life ended just six days later.
Rhys’ bravery has been recognised by the Royal Humane Society of Australia, who awarded the 21-year-old its only posthumous award for 2012.
Victorian Governor Alex Chernov presented 35 bravery awards at a Government House ceremony on Friday.
The awards recognise acts of bravery by those who risk their own lives to save others.
Rhys was described by family and friends as a “keen and talented” sportsman who played cricket and football with Buninyong clubs and was a keen Carlton supporter.
He was also a third-year University of Ballarat education student, majoring in physical education, maths and outdoor education.
At his funeral, Buninyong Cricket Club secretary Michael Flynn spoke about Rhys as a “tenacious and skilled competitor” with plenty of grit and determination.
Buninyong Football and Netball Club president Wayne Morgan said Rhys would be remembered for who he was and what he gave to others.
Friend Matthew Hartigan said his mate breezed through life picking up friends along the way.
“You were a leader, not a follower, you spent your life picking people up, not putting people down,” Matthew said.