Sport NRL larrikin's trademark approach to cancer trek

07:50  17 june  2021
07:50  17 june  2021 Source:   wwos.nine.com.au

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It's a gruelling 150km trek in three days but Brett Finch has a simple philosophy.

"We'll be done in no time with the s--t that we'll be talking the whole way," the former NSW halfback told Wide World of Sports, ahead of 'The Big Three' walk.

The walk was conceived by three mates from Newcastle and has been linked to The Mark Hughes Foundation, raising funds and awareness for brain cancer. Being held from June 17-19 with the aim of raising $100,000, it is running alongside the NRL's Beanie for Brain Cancer Round and has attracted an all-star cast of rugby league identities.

Willie Mason, Chris Lawrence, Roy Asotasi, David 'Wolfman' Williams and Braith Anasta are just some of the names, along with State of Origin field goal hero Finch. They will walk some or all of the journey from NRL headquarters in Sydney to McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle; three days of about 50km each.

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Brett Finch after kicking his famous State of Origin field goal in 2006. © Getty Brett Finch after kicking his famous State of Origin field goal in 2006.

"Boozy (Hughes) is a mate of mine, I played against Boozy during our careers and I'm still a good mate, so to help him out in any way - it's such a great cause," said Finch, the former Raiders, Roosters, Eels and Storm playmaker.

"The developments he's made in the last few years have been fantastic, with the awareness around it.

"The amount of people that have jumped on board with the walk is amazing, especially former footy players that have come on board."

Hughes, the former Newcastle Knights premiership winner, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013. He underwent 33 radiation sessions and six months of oral chemotherapy the following year to eliminate a tumour the size of an avocado.

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Hughes is an immensely popular figure in rugby league. His diagnosis was a shock and his subsequent charity work has been greatly admired.

"Just a terrific fella, someone who's gone through his struggles but out of that, he's doing stuff to help other people, which is great," Finch said.

"He's a life of the party sort of bloke, always happy, never whinges, never complains. You sort of don't expect it with those guys because they've never got anything to whinge about, so that [diagnosis] was certainly a shock.

"Especially such a nice bloke, it just goes to show it can happen to anyone. It can affect people close to you.

"All communities do it but the rugby league community rallies together really well. We can tend to eat our own at times but when there's a cause to be had or something to come together for to help someone, we do that really well.

"You sort of never know how tough he (Hughes) is doing because he's so lighthearted. He's such a good-natured bloke. It's no surprise to see the support he gets because of how popular he is, such an endearing person, someone you love to be around, such good company."

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Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in children and adults aged under 40 in Australia, killing about 1500 Aussies per year. The five-year survival rate for brain cancer is 22 per cent, according to the Cancer Council, and mortality rates have barely improved in the past 30 years.

It is a complex illness that is expensive to treat, yet receives just five per cent of federal government cancer research funding. It was also a low-profile illness until the like of Hughes came along, vastly boosting awareness.

"It's certainly got that now and Mark and his foundation are a big reason why that's happened," Finch said.

Beanie for Brain Cancer Round was founded by Hughes and Nine rugby league executive Matt Callander, who died of brain cancer in 2017 at just 46.

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