Where do I start? It’s 2020 - almost four years since our battle with brain cancer begun and today as I write you this letter, I am proud to say that our fight to beat this terrible disease is stronger than ever.
First thing’s first, a few things you need to know.
The Sydney Roosters won back to back premierships.
Prince Harry and Megan Markle tied the knot… then left the royal family.
Fortnite is the bees knees in the gaming world.
Elton John came to Australia… again.
Jeff Bezos (the founder of Amazon) took over Bill Gates as the world’s richest man.
Tik Tok is the latest craze.
Australia’s Ash Barty won the French Open.
And…. Donald Trump is still the President of the United States.
It’s been nearly three years since we’ve lost you and to be completely honest, it hasn’t been easy. We all miss you, but I promise, Mum, Indiana (13), Digger (12) and Archie (10) are all really well.
A few updates from us; Mum is back at work full time, Indy has started playing AFL, Digger broke his arm swinging on a tree and Archie is currently undefeated in monopoly. We’re finally renovating the house. And for me, well, I’m at Nine, proudly following in your footsteps helping beam the footy into people’s loungerooms.
The biggest news I have to share is the world’s recent pandemic - also known as COVID 19. I know it may not sound like much but it has turned the world upside down. There have been over 7.94 million confirmed cases of the virus and this has resulted in over 435,000 deaths.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
The stock market has plummeted, millions of people have lost their jobs, businesses have gone bust, beaches were closed, restaurants, shopping centres, movie theatres, all shut down. Even international and domestic travel was abandoned. Toilet paper was flying off the shelves and buying hand-sanitiser was like finding gold at the supermarket. Everyone was forced to live under strict regulations.
We were not allowed to leave the house unless it was deemed essential activity. And this wasn’t just in Australia… This was across the globe. It was insane.
As we know pretty well, life is unpredictable. In any moment, everything can change. And this was certainly one of those moments.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
In April 2016, our world was rocked by brain cancer. A stage four glioblastoma – the most aggressive form of cancer, to which there is no cure. We were told you had 12 months to live and even though, we were shattered by the news, you never took a back seat. Instead, you chose to make a difference. You chose to react.
In 2017, you joined forces with with the Mark Hughes Foundation, the National Rugby League and Channel Nine to establish the NRL’s Beanie for Brain Cancer Round. And in its first year, we sold over 100,000 beanies and raised over $2 million dollars. In 2018, the campaign raised $2.7 million and last year, in 2019, we hit $3 million.
I couldn’t wait to do it all again this year. Not only to sell beanies and help continue the fight against brain cancer but to share our story and see your remarkable legacy live on. But some things are out of our control. In March 2020, the virus hit and just like that, things changed. Everything stopped, even the rugby league season was suspended and although it may seem petty, I was devastated that we may not get a chance to see the Beanie Round go ahead.
Yet, it was the NRL who chose to react. Led by their fearless leader, Peter V’landys, they fought tooth and nail to get the season back up and running and, in the end, they did. Rugby League was one of the first sports to restart their season after the coronavirus. It was massive - the biggest sporting news in the world. Not only had they set a date for the return, published various biosecurity laws and protocols for all those involved but all in the same week they had announced their backing of the Beanie for Brain Cancer Round.
I couldn’t believe it.
What was once just your random idea to ‘wear and sell beanies at the footy’ is now an official National Rugby League themed round. To this day, this initiative has raised over $10 million for brain cancer research. The Mark Hughes Foundation has sponsored research fellowships, supported innovation grants, created biobanks and together, I know we’ve already successfully accelerated the potential for a cure.
As you always said, money equals research and research equals a cure.
This year, more than ever, I wish you could see what you have achieved. This will be the fourth year of the NRL’s Beanie for Brain Cancer Round and regardless of how many beanies we sell or the money we raise… The awareness this round produces is invaluable.
Acting NRL CEO, Andrew Abdo said recently, “For as long as there’s games being played, we will hold the Beanie for Brain Cancer Round.” That doesn’t happen without you.
Dad, you did it. You changed the world.
The Beanie for Brain Cancer Round is about something much bigger than football and the more awareness we continue to create, the closer we are to a cure. Yes, this year will be different. A few things will have to change but one thing’s for certain… the endless help and support from players, coaches, rugby league executives, television personnel, politicians, athletes and the wider sporting community is beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
We are all looking forward to this year’s extra special ‘Beanie Round’ and even though you can’t be here, your legacy lives on… again.
I can’t wait to do you proud. Speak soon.