Beanie for Brain Cancer: the story

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In the opening half of the 2018 NRL season, the Rugby League world in many ways has been split in two. 

On one side of the fence, there's been those focused on the usual drama around the state of the game, controversial officiating and time-keeping mishaps. On the other, those who are just loving the quality football on display and the many feel-good stories that are part of the game.

On both sides of the fence, there's the undoubted passion and love of the game and it's that very passion that has brought the Rugby League community together again this week to rally for those suffering from the tragic disease of Brain Cancer.

Round 12 of the NRL doubles as Beanie For Brain Cancer Round, the brainchild of the late Matt Callander, the much loved and well respected channel nine employee. Partnering with the Mark Hughes Foundation, the concept was an overwhelming success last year with the round raising $1.75 million. A truly inspirational effort considering Matt Callander was in the teeth of his very own battle with this tragic disease.

The statistics of the disease are really quite scary.

Approximately 1200 Australians die from brain cancer per year making it the biggest killer of children and adults under the age of 40. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that less than 5% of Federal Government Cancer research is provided to brain cancer and that these statistics have barely changed in the past 30 years.

Enter Mark Hughes, a champion player for the Newcastle Knights in their glory days of the late 90's, early 2000's who had his world turned upside down in July 2013 when he was diagnosed with brain cancer himself.

For those who don't remember, Hughesy was the underrated player every successful team needs. The guy a superstar like Andrew Johns could throw the ball wide to for an inspirational run and quick play the ball when the team needed it most. On the field, he was simply courageous, brave and committed to the hard work. As the Knights club motto goes, he was the player everyone wanted to play with.

It's those very qualities that have surely helped him amidst the fight of his life. 

After being diagnosed and having the tumour removed, he went through an extensive amount of radiation and chemotherapy which he responded well to. So far there has been no regrowth and he considers himself lucky just to be around and having regular scans, the latest of which came back clear.

Bravely, it was in his darkest hours that Hughes and his wife Kirralee decided they needed to start a charity to help people now and into the future suffering from the same horrific battle he was going through.

The Mark Hughes Foundation's mission is to raise awareness for brain cancer while raising funds to research the disease and support brain cancer patients and their families.

This year he's doing an amazing job at the forefront of Beanie For Brain Cancer Round so make sure you do your bit to help the many sufferers out there doing it tough and help in the fight against this disease.

You can simply buy a Mark Hughes Foundation beanie from a local Ritchie's Super IGA store or head to https://markhughesfoundation.com.au.

The Beanie for Brain Cancer Round will reach its focal point on Sunday when Hughesy's former team, the Newcastle Knights do battle with the Cronulla Sharks at the temporarily re-named Beanie for Brain Cancer Stadium.

The people of Newcastle and the Rugby League community in general rallying together like only this great game does will surely make it an emotion charged day. 

The battle for many however will continue long after this round of footy. So next time your team cops a controversial call, stop for a second and think about how important that really is.

And don't forget, grab yourselves a beanie!

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