Legends of League funds to be shared with bushfire appeals

Mark Hughes intends to share the charity proceeds from Saturday's third annual Legends of League tournament to help those affected by bushfires in NSW and Queensland.

Organisers are expecting a crowd of around 8500 at McDonald Jones Stadium, with 90 former NRL players to represent the Bulldogs, Broncos, Panthers, Eels, Knights and a mixed Barbarians team.

The Mark Hughes Foundation, which raises money for brain cancer research, has been the event's charity partner since 2018 and will again receive a percentage of the gate earnings.

Some players have previously donated their appearance fees as well.

Hughes told NRL.com he felt compelled to split this year's funds with bushfire appeals amid the devastation that has taken lives and homes.

"We get a lot of great support from the community so I just think it's a great opportunity for us to help some people in need," Hughes said.

Mark Hughes will donate funds to the bushfire appeals.
Mark Hughes will donate funds to the bushfire appeals. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"It'll be a nice touch to the day to help these amazing firefighters and the people who have been touched by this."

Brisbane captain Wendell Sailor echoed Hughes's sentiment and said he hopes Newcastle locals turn out in numbers.

"Seeing what's going on with the bushfires is absolutely heartbreaking," Sailor said. "Hopefully we can put a spectacle on, raise some money and get a good crowd."

Hughes, who recently climbed Mt Kilimanjaro to raise funds for his charity, will coach Newcastle in the nine-a-side modified games.

And he'll have an ex-Knights teammate as a decent right-hand man.

Manly legend Cliff Lyons at the 2018 Legends of League.
Manly legend Cliff Lyons at the 2018 Legends of League. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"I've got an assistant coach clipping at my heels by the name of Andrew Johns, so I'll have to keep my staff in check," Hughes joked.

"They'll be playing for my game plan and no one else's... With Andrew Johns coaching, maybe he'll bring his boots. You never know."

Canterbury, boasting the likes of Willie Mason, Rod Silva and Mark O'Meley, are shooting for three successive Legends of League titles.

The Bulldogs haven't been defeated at the tournament but Hughes reckons their reign is due to end.

"I think it's time for them to be knocked off their perch," Hughes said. "They're certainly a formidable unit and they're going to take some holding again this year.

"But I'm looking forward to the new team, Penrith, coming in [replacing Manly]. They look really good.

Nathan Hindmarsh takes a breather in 2018.
Nathan Hindmarsh takes a breather in 2018. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"And you can never write off a champion team like Brisbane – they haven't had much success yet but I think they're getting close."

Sailor also nominated the Panthers as the team to beat, with much of the club's 2003 premiership side reuniting.

However, the dual international winger believes a more mobile squad will make the Broncos contenders after they failed to reach the finals in the first two years.

The 45-year-old loves the camaraderie of the Legends but he has no doubt the competitive juices will flow.

"[But] we do it in a good nature - we're not playing for sheep stations," Sailor said.

"The last couple of years it's been quite good. I've gone head-to-head with guys like Nathan Hindmarsh and Danny Buderus.

"There's a lot of respect there but you know there are some guys that [will] go full-on if you run at them."

In addition to watching the heroes of yesteryear in action, fans can meet their favourite players with each team scheduled to do a 30-minute signing session.