Over the weekend, the nib Newcastle Knights media team received the following email from a passionate supporter named Ian.
He detailed an emotional and special relationship his sister shared with Sione Mata’utia.
He was kind enough to share his story with the Club and with his blessing is allowing us to make his email public.
The email reads:
With all the negativity in the media recently I thought I'd share my sister's story involving Sione.
A bit over two years ago my sister, aged 50, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given between three and six months to live.
Due to other health issues she never got to a Knights game but believe me there was no more passionate fan.
Her favourite player of the current crop is Sione. 100% fair dinkum when told she had cancer and the outlook wasn't good, the first thing that upset her was ‘I won't see Sione play Origin’.
Unbeknownst to the family, some friends approached Sione and asked if he could sign something or send her his best wishes.
His reaction was to organise a lift for my sister, Naomi, to meet him at Waratah Shopping Village where he sat with her for over an hour just talking footy and anything else that came up.
She said if she died tomorrow, she'll be happy.
A week or so later he sent a car out to pick Naomi, her son, daughter and grandkids up and take to a game where he'd organised a box for them.
No fuss, no fanfare my sister wasn't even a member at the time.
The last 20 years of Naomi's life, apart from the joy her kids gave her, was very ordinary.
Naomi described the game day experience as the best day of her life.
From that day on Sione regularly visited my sister at home or called to see how she was doing.
Naomi like so many cancer patients fought a brave fight.
She hung in the for 18 months and got to see her fourth grandchild born.
She managed to go away with her kids to Dubbo zoo for a weekend and she even got to a couple more games.
At the two-year point in her battle approached Naomi was admitted to the Mater (hospital) and wasn't going to be going home.
Who was a visitor on more than one occasion? Sione was.
Right up until the final days before she passed away before Christmas, he was checking how things were.
NRL players get plenty of attention for the stupid things they do and sure there's quite a few feel-good stories that see the light of day but here we have a champion young bloke giving up plenty of his time for a virtual nobody and doing it because he's genuine (and) not looking to have his tyres pumped up.
The positive effect he had on my sisters last two years with us will be something I never forget and will appreciate until they day I see her again.