Hughes' positive approach changing lives
It's as a confronting a diagnosis as any person can receive but as he lay in a hospital bed following his initial surgery to remove a high-grade tumour from his brain, Mark Hughes vowed to help others.
One of the most popular players to ever pull on a Knights jersey, Hughes had a decorated career that included three Origin appearances for New South Wales before two days of headaches in June 2013 saw him seek help and the terrifying news that he had brain cancer.
This weekend the NRL community is uniting in support of the Mark Hughes Foundation's 'Beanies for Brain Cancer' campaign that endeavours to raise money for the most under-researched and under-funded type of cancer.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Hughes's former teammate at the Knights Danny Buderus said that he struggled to comprehend what was ahead of his great mate when he was first told but has been inspired by what he has achieved in the three years since.
"As we all began to come to grips with what was happening, Mark had surgery to remove his high-grade tumour and began the rest of his treatment and recovery," Buderus recalls.
"He knew he had a chance to turn this life-changing event into a positive and decided from his recovery bed to form the Mark Hughes Foundation.
"Three years on, it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come.
"My mate from Kurri Kurri – with some help from his friends – has raised over $2 million for brain cancer research and won’t stop there.
"There is now a brain cancer care coordinator in the Hunter New England area which is being used as an example to try and get more implemented around the country. There are plenty of national research projects happening too.
"As much I wish there was no need for MHF, I couldn’t be prouder."
As is the way among rugby league people, Hughes found overwhelming support during such a difficult time, friends, teammates and family queuing up to drive him from Newcastle to the Central Coast every day for treatment.
"The next part of the treatment was trips to the Central Coast every day for six weeks for his radiation therapy," says Buderus.
"There was a long line of mates waiting to drive him every day and help him in any way they could.
"One of them was the inspirational Paul ‘Chief’ Harragon, who was already convinced Mark was going to beat this thing and do something special.
"With Mark’s supportive wife Kiz, a few friends and family, they kicked off with their first local fundraiser in 2014 – a Beanie for Brain Cancer awareness campaign."
This weekend the NRL and their many broadcast partners across all platforms will pledge their support to the dedicated Beanies for Brain Cancer round that was the idea of Channel Nine NRL Executive Producer Matt Callander who was himself diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016.
The hope is that more than $500,000 will be raised over the course of Rd 11 with fans able to donate through www.markhughesfoundation.com.au or by buying a beanie at the ground at Sharks v Cowboys, Broncos v Wests Tigers, Eels v Raiders, Knights v Panthers and Bulldogs v Roosters.
The Round 11 issue of Big League features stories on Kieran Foran, Brett Morris and why the stats show that Mitchell Pearce and Daly Cherry-Evans are Origin musts and is on sale at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.