Special Report by Matt Cleary
MARK HUGHES, who may sell a millionth beanie for brain cancer on Sunday afternoon at Accor Stadium, has history with the venue and with the home-team the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
He was part of the Newcastle Knights side that played the first game at Stadium Australia, March 6 1999, when the Knights beat Manly 41-18 in front of a world record crowd of 104,583.
In 2001 he was fullback for NSW Blues in their 26-8 win over Queensland.
By late September of 2001 he was in the centres when the Knights ambushed Parramatta Eels in the NRL Grand Final.
Yet it wasn’t all roses on-field for the popular clubman.
“I remember we lost a Preliminary Final [28-16] against the Bulldogs that went to extra time [in 1998],” Hughes says. “We were up 16-0 and they just kept coming. Darryl Halligan kicked everything.
“A week later he did it to Parramatta and the Dogs went on a run to the Grand Final.”
The Bulldogs’ spirit in that comeback game inspires Hughes today as it always has. He grew up a Parramatta Eels fan but had always admired the Bulldogs, particularly Warren ‘Wok’ Ryan’s ‘Dogs of War’.
“I remember those tough guys, their forwards, and guys like Terry Lamb and the Mortimer brothers.
“When I was 18 I played first grade at Kurri Kurri with [1991 Rothman’s Medal winner] Ewan McGrady.
“At the Knights we were coached by Wok and he was always about instilling hardness and fight in players,” Hughes says.
It’s an ethos that has served Hughes well. For he remains in the fight of his life.
The origin story of he and wife Kirralee’s Mark Hughes Foundation – which has raised $24 million for brain cancer research – is known well enough: aged 36 Hughes had headaches that wouldn’t go away. He was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer.
He had three young children. His world was upended. There followed surgery, chemotherapy, radiation.
Today he’s a fit 46-year-old though he’s not ‘clear’ of cancer. He lives with it. And every four months he checks it hasn’t come back to bite him.
“There is no cure,” Hughes says. “I fight for myself and for my family, and for everyone living with brain cancer.
“We started the foundation 12 years ago and it’s been brilliant to see the rugby league community get around it.
“You can’t thank people enough – but the job isn’t done.”
Hughes says he’s very proud of the University of Newcastle’s Mark Hughes Foundation Centre for Brain Cancer Research where “the best experts in the field collaborate for a cure and change the lives of thousands of patients diagnosed with brain cancer each year”.
“This drives critical research, education and health care improvements at a national scale,” according to Hughes.
Beanies will be on sale at Accor Stadium for $25 at MHF stalls at Aisles 110 and 132, as well as in the Family Fun Zone.
To grab a beanie online or find a stockist near you, check out the MHF website.
Fans are encouraged to get in early as the match doubles as Bulldogs’ Ambassadors Round. Pre-match the club will honour and celebrate the career of former captain Josh Jackson.
For all match-day information including transport and ticketing, check out the Bulldogs website.
11:15am: Gates Open
11:30am: Kick Off: Knock-On Effect NSW Cup – Bulldogs v Knights
2:00pm: Kick Off: NRL Telstra Premiership – Bulldogs v Knights
Brain Cancer by the Numbers:
- Only two in 10 people diagnosed will live more than five years;
- It kills more people under 40 than any other cancer;
- Receives less than five per cent of federal funding for cancer research;
- One person every five hours is diagnosed in Australia;
- Survival rates have increased by one per cent over the last 30 years;