My dad loved to walk. To the beach. Around the park. Anywhere. Any time. He used to say, it was the best way to clear your head. To reflect on your day, reassess your goals, even plan your next move.
Sadly, in 2016, our next move was made for us and it meant taking a few steps we had never planned for. A stage four glioblastoma. One of the most aggressive forms of cancer, to which there is currently no cure. My Dad was given 12 months to live and that was it, life as we knew it changed forever. With news like this, it would have been easy to take a backwards step. But through the six weeks of radiation, three rounds of chemotherapy and two major brain surgeries, as a family, we all put one foot in front of the other and we never stopped.
In 2017, we decided to walk our own path. And as a result, the NRL’s Beanie for Brain Cancer Round was born. In collaboration with the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) and the National Rugby League we established a weekend of footy that quickly became a lot bigger than the game itself. We’re not here to chase two points. Nor are we searching for top spot on the ladder. Together, we are fighting this terrible disease. We are tackling Brain Cancer.
In its first year, the Beanie for Brain Cancer Round successfully sold over 100,000 beanies and raised over $2 million dollars. In 2018, $2.7 million. In 2019, $3.1 million. And in 2020, despite the challenge of Covid 19, we managed a remarkable $2.5 million.
And in 2021, we’re ready to do it all over again. This week, we launched our fifth annual Beanie for Brain Cancer Round in the most perfect way. In a way my Dad would have loved. We walked.
We walked for Brain Cancer.
And ultimately, for a cure.
Each year, The Big Three walk from Sydney to Newcastle to raise money for the Mark Hughes Foundation and this year, the annual trek will run alongside our Beanie campaign. Today, on Wednesday June 16, it all kicked off at the NRL Headquarters in Sydney. And as the saying goes, "If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”
Today, I walked among 150 sports personalities, reality TV stars and journalists from the Sydney Football Stadium to the Sydney Opera House and I was simply, blown away.
For each step, there was a new face. Another story to be told and another reason to fight this terrible disease. This morning as we walked through the bustling city, I was filled with pride, humbled by the group I had the pleasure of walking alongside and even though, my family and I lost our battle to Brain Cancer, it has only made me more determined to always take a positive step forward.
I miss my Dad and I think about him often but it’s on days like today where I find myself with a special kind of strength. It’s a time when I am reminded, only through the actions and love of others, just how special he really was and the impact he had, not only in my life, but in the world of rugby league. And if I’m honest, of course, I would have loved for him to walk with me today, to share in a funny story, reveal an update or two, even map out a future… And as weird as it may be to write it this way, I did feel like he was there. Smiling from ear to ear and immensely proud of every single person who has contributed to the growth of this Round. With every kilometre walked today, I marvelled in what my Dad had created. Who knew something so simple could make such a difference?
To this day, thanks to the Beanie for Brain Cancer Round, the Mark Hughes Foundation has been able to sponsor several research fellowships, support innovation grants, create biobanks and this year, have made a commitment of $7.5 million dollars to the University of Newcastle to establish an entire research team dedicated solely to Brain Cancer research.
The support and generosity of this community is simply extraordinary, and to that, I want to say thank you.
Thank you for joining our team.
Thank you for joining our fight against Brain Cancer.
We are no longer taking small steps; we’re taking a giant leap towards a cure.