Ask Bill Peden how he feels about Mark Hughes and his respect for his former Newcastle Knights teammate flows.
Hughes, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014, is a great mate to so many former Knights players.
That’s why the two-time premiership winner is inundated with support for the Mark Hughes Foundation and the NRL’s Beanies for Brain Cancer round.
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“Mark Hughes is everything the Knights aspire to be,” Peden told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“He’s the boy next door, the kid that probably didn’t have the ability of everyone else but stood up and made it and was counted.
“I think it’s just something that everyone can relate to and it’s a story that needs to be told, there hasn’t been enough done for people with brain cancer.
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“Mark started up his foundation and it has become his life now and he often says that he didn’t pick brain cancer, it picked him.
“He has made life so much better and easier for other people and is making huge strides finding a cure for brain cancer.”
Not only is the Mark Hughes Foundation impacting the NRL community, it’s starting to reach a global scale.
“I think the two things are just linked now and the Knights and the foundation and Rugby League in general and it’s getting bigger than that. People from Victoria and people from New York are buying beanies, so it’s really grown,” Peden said.
“I think the foundation has made something like ten million dollars. That’s ten million dollars closer to a cure than before Hughesy was struck down with it.”
One Christmas day, Peden was thinking of ways he could raise money for the foundation.
Ponga, all heart.
In true Bill Peden fashion, he wanted to do something challenging.
So he rang Paul Harragon and the two organised to do the Kokoda Track.
“I was thinking about my mates and thought when one of your mates is in the fight of their life you can’t just sit around and not do anything, you have to do something,” Peden said.
“I rang big Chief and said there is more we can do.
“How about we go on a trek and do Kokoda track or something and make it really hard and get people to sponsor us and we might make 50 grand for the foundation, that’s 50 grand that is going to go into brain cancer research.
“We did the Kokoda track and coast to coast and ended up raising 150 thousand for the foundation.
“It was a real eye opener that a bunch of old has been footballers can still help their mates and not only their mates but people we have never met before that are in the fight of their life with this horrible thing called brain cancer.”
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They’ve now completed three treks for the foundation and raised over $1 million dollars.
The Beanies for Brain Cancer Round is now in its third year and the support from the NRL community continues to grow.
Last season they raised over $3 million from donations and beanie sales.
Peden hopes it’ll only grow more in 2019.
“The Beanies for Brain Cancer Round, it is just supported so well, and the players the way they run out on the field with the beanies, the respect they give Hughesy, you know the blokes that have never met him, it’s just amazing,” Peden added.