It is a friendship that was forged playing in the red and blue jersey and one that’s endured far beyond the footy field for former Newcastle Knights Mark Hughes, Paul ‘Chief’ Harragon and Bill Peden.
That bond has inspired teammates Harragon and Peden to create and take on an epic adventure challenge for their great mate, Mark Hughes.
The Newcastle contingent will take on the Kokoda Coast to Coast adventure challenge, departing on June 6 to raise funds for the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) in the quest to tackle brain cancer.
Kokoda Coast to Coast challenge is a 284km epic journey by bike and foot from Buna on Papua New Guinea's North Coast where the team will ride to the village of Kokoda.
From the Kokoda village, they will walk the inspirational Kokoda track, a 96km journey along the legendary track to Owers' Corner. The team will then ride the final leg home by bike from the mountainous regions of Owers' Corner to Port Moresby on the South coast.
Knights TV caught up with Hughes and Peden at Knights HQ on Wednesday about the adventure.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge and we are excited about,” Hughes said.
"To be riding our bikes for 170 kilometres or so over there, plus doing the Kokoda challenge all in one, it will be big challenge.”
Hughes, who established the Mark Hughes Foundation after being diagnosed with brain cancer, is passionate about raising much needed funds and awareness about the illness which is the leading cause of cancer death in children, and adults aged under 40 in Australia.
"Since my diagnosis in 2013 with brain cancer, we had to find some more answers and we needed research,” he said.
Since then, the Foundation has contributed to research projects at HMRI, funded a brain cancer nurse at John Hunter Hospital and sent researchers on travel grants to learn more about brain cancer
Young Newcastle Knights Sione Mata’utia knows first hand how challenging the endeavour will be for the three men after taking on the Kokoda track in 2013 as part of a leadership scholarship he was awarded at the Club.
While pushing him to his emotional and physical limits, the now 20-year-old says the experience saw him not only grow as a person but gave him valuable life perspective.
He wished the party well in their trip and hopes Peden, Harragon and Hughes take the same positives out of their journey.
“It was one to remember that’s for sure and it’s probably the most memorable,emotional and toughest memory I have,” he said.
"I was truly grateful to do it.
“Along the trip there were some tears shed and some very tough moments but I think at the end of the day we wanted to simulate as close we could to get to what the soldiers walked.
“It was a really emotional thing.”
Meanwhile Bill Pedan, known in his career for his gutsy determination and for competing above his weight, is grateful to be joined in the expedition by such great friends.
“It’s great to have Mark on board and that he is healthy enough to do it,” he said.
“It’s great to have big Chief (Harragon) back in our corner again. Whenever we have needed him, he has always been there.
“He has done it again. He is a great man and has looked after us pretty much all our lives.”
For more information about the Mark Hughes Foundation or to donate to the cause, CLICK HERE.