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Charity work hits home for tough Titan

It takes something pretty special to break a front-rower's tough façade but for Titan Jarrod Wallace the emotion was unexpectedly overwhelming.

Every year NRL footballers work with various charities around the country, but few have such a unique connection as Wallace and his four-year association with Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Wallace was not just their ambassador last year, he was also briefly their guest.

His youngest daughter Kennedy was born six-weeks premature last August and just this week celebrated a major milestone when she was taken off medication for the first time in six months.

Wallace recalls visiting the Gold Coast Ronald McDonald House during his darkest moments last year while his wife Courtney and youngest of three daughters were going through their fight.

Memories of that private battle came flooding back to him on Tuesday as he visited the Brisbane chapter and spoke to the media while a baby, born just one day after his own and yet to leave hospital, eyeballed him during his press conference sparking a wave of unexpected emotion.

"It's a real rollercoaster for the families and seeing the bub six-months-old, she's been here from birth and aww … I think that … aww I don't know why that hit me so hard," he said wiping a tear from his cheek.

"It's hit home when I've got a little bub at home who went through it and [this little girl] is sitting there looking at me too. 

Jarrod Wallace at Ronald McDonald House.
Jarrod Wallace at Ronald McDonald House.

"It's so hard but I think that's why it's so important, we've all got our own families and she is only a day apart from my daughter and for them to be able to stay in a facility like this it makes them feel like they've got a little bit of home. 

"I couldn't even imagine what they must go through. Kennedy went through what she did … but it was only just a fraction of what the kids go through here.

"This is the whole reason I do it. For me personally I could just sit down on the Gold Coast and play footy and be happy but I think more as a person and especially with three little girls, it's the best part of my job.

Emotional Wallace visits Ronald McDonald house charities

"Just talking about it I get goosebumps. It's very rewarding and I love doing it."

Few will ever truly understand the off-field turmoil Wallace endured last season. If you're lucky, you'll never experience it either. 

As the Titans endured the season from hell, with a sacked coach and a wooden spoon, Wallace was dealing with his wife Courtney's difficult pregnancy. With health complications such as signs of pre-eclampsia and low amniotic fluid, doctors decided the safest option was a premature birth.

The 28-year-old Origin front-rower's head was all over the place for most of last season as he privately battled his off-field emotional turmoil, but he was still one of the more consistent performers for the Titans.

"Last year for me was probably the hardest year for me in football," he said.

"Not just on the field for the results we were having but for off the field, what my wife went through in pregnancy and things like that. 

"Having the doctors and the facilities to get through what we got through made the light at the end of the tunnel keep truckin' away."

Now Wallace has turned the corner. Kennedy is now medication-free and importantly for Titans fans Wallace can sense a new dawn for the Gold Coast under coach Justin Holbrook as the players rediscover their passion for football.

"I know there's been real ups and downs the last two years," he said.

"[Holbrook] has come in and really brought the boys back together and we've bonded really well and he just wants us to start turning up and loving the game again and loving being back at training.

"We get to play a trial this week close to that team for round one and I think it's the most excited I've been for a while to play footy."

The Titans will play Brisbane in their final trial at Redcliffe on Saturday. Wallace will start in the front row alongside new recruit Sam Lisone in a near full strength outfit with only AJ Brimson (back), Shannon Boyd (shoulder) and Moeaki Fotuaika (knee) being rested with minor injury complaints.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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