HEARTBROKEN Melbourne player Michael Hibberd has paid tribute to his brother, Geoffrey, who disappeared while fishing with a friend off Victoria's coast four days ago.
The search for the 33-year-old and Jason De Silva, 20, was scaled back on Wednesday after their boat was found washed ashore the south coast of Phillip Island on Monday.
Melbourne defender Hibberd on Thursday wrote of his devastation in an Instagram message that he addressed to "my brother, my big brother".
"I will never forget how you have always been there and would do anything for not just me but honestly anyone," the 30-year-old wrote.
"You're one of the most unique, kind and caring people I've ever met and I'm so lucky I had the gift of you as a big brother through my whole life.
"You were my first point of call growing up when I needed someone, you would drop anything you were doing at anytime, just to help me.
"I idolised you! You were my hero. You still are!! I know you have always been my No.1 fan and the bond we had as brothers was like nothing else."
Hibberd also vowed to look after his brother's daughter.
"You were an incredible and loyal friend and the most amazing father to Indie," he wrote.
"She was your world and she adored you! We all did.
"Please know brother I will always be there and take care of Indie! My pledge to you!"
Earlier on Thursday, Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin told reporters the club had thrown its arms around the Hibberd family.
"It's without question a really tragic situation for Michael and his family," Goodwin said.
"They're clearly doing it really tough at the moment.
"I've been in contact with Michael numerous times every day and he's holding up OK.
"Clearly he's got a lot of mixed emotions and is just coming to terms with the whole situation.
"The club have put a great support network around him and we're working really closely with the family.
"The players have certainly rallied behind him through messages and we'll do anything we can to support the family.
"It's obviously a really difficult time for them."
Goodwin said the situation had been difficult for Melbourne players and coaches to work through while social distancing restrictions are in place during the coronavirus pandemic.
"You just want to go and see him and give him a hug," Goodwin said.
"It's one thing that you do miss at the moment; that social interaction and connection with people.
"You just want to be there for him and we can't at the moment.
"But I can call him, I can contact him and I can show care in other ways, and that's what I'm doing."
Hibberd played in Melbourne's round one defeat to West Coast on March 22 before the AFL went into shutdown.
The Demons released a statement on Saturday:
"The Melbourne Football Club is deeply saddened by the loss of Geoff Hibberd, the brother of Michael," the statement read.
"On behalf of the Board, staff and players, the Club extends its deepest condolences to Geoff’s loved ones following this tragedy.
"This is a heartbreaking time and we stand alongside the Hibberd family during this period of mourning.
"This is a deeply private matter and our collective thoughts are with Michael, his wife Anthea and the extended Hibberd family."