THIS year is the 20th anniversary of the Newcastle Knights’ 1997 premiership victory. The thrilling last-second triumph over Manly in the grand final remains the greatest sporting moment in the city’s history.
For the players it was their Mount Everest … until now.
Captain Paul Harragon, coach Mal Reilly, Andrew and Matthew Johns, Matthew Gidley, Adam MacDougall and Mark Hughes will be joined by other ‘97 teammates on a trek to Mount Everest base camp in October.
Instigated by Harragon, the the 12-day journey through the Himalayas hopes to raise more than $200,000 for the Mark Hughes Foundation.
“We did the Kokoda track last year and raised $150,000,” Hughes said. “It was a wonderful success and we are looking to better that this year. The boys all signed up pretty quick. Mount Everest is a great challenge. The way I see it, people and families with brain cancer climb far harder mountains than that. This is nothing, it is a walk in the park.”
As part of the fundraising, two places on the trip are being auctioned on-line at the MHF website. Bidding closes on Sunday at 7.30pm.
“If they are a Knights fan, there will be plenty of club history to talk about,” Hughes said. “There would be over 2000 games among these boys. It is a chance to achieve something amazing together. This is something we will never forget.”
Hughes, who as well as winning the 1997 and 2001 premiership played three Origin games for NSW, was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2013 and formed the foundation in May of the following year.
“People are saying that it is not good enough that brain cancer kills more people under the age of 40 than any other cancer,” Hughes said. “It hits people in their prime. People are putting their hand up and saying ‘we want to help’. The response has been awesome.”
As well as the Mount Everest trek, the MHF has joined forces with the NRL to stage Beanies For Brain Cancer Round this weekend.
Beanies, male and female, will be sold at selected grounds this weekend and are also available on-line.
More than half of the 70,000 beanies have been purchased.
“The Newcastle community, the NRL … everyone has been amazing,” Hughes said. “We are on track to raise $500,000 which is enough to put a fellowship on. That allows a specialist to dedicate time to research, collaborate with other researchers in laboratories and conduct clinical trials. We have a fellowship at HMRI already and we want to get more. In terms of outcomes, it takes time. We have to get things in place and get the specialists studying and things will happen. ”