THE Once-A-Knight Old Boys will take care of one of their own at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Two-time premiership-winning former Knights utility back Mark Hughes has been a regular at Old Boys’ Day since its inception in 1998 – initially as a participant, then, since his retirement in 2005, as a spectator surrounded by many of his former team-mates.
But Old Boys’ Day will take on greater significance for him this year. Diagnosed with brain cancer 12 months ago, the former NSW fullback established the Mark Hughes Foundation in May, in conjunction with the Hunter Medical Research Institute and the Sydney Neurology Oncology Group, to raise funds for research into the insidious condition.
The foundation will be the Old Boys’ charity partner when the Knights host the Dragons in their last home game of the season on Sunday.
‘‘Old Boys’ Day traditionally is the biggest home game of the year for the Knights, and I’m so grateful for the Knights to allow our foundation to partner up with the Old Boys on the day,’’ Hughes said.
‘‘The Knights have been fantastic in their support of us from day one. For me, it’s always a proud day to turn up as an old boy, and even more special this year because of the Mark Hughes Foundation’s involvement, so it’s very exciting.’’
For a donation, supporters can enter a photo booth and be photographed with replicas of the 1997 ARL and 2001 NRL premiership trophies, but it will not be all fun and frivolity.
‘‘At half-time we’re going to have a special ceremony on the ground with some brain-cancer patients and families of patients out on the field,’’ Hughes explained.
‘‘There will be a tribute to them on the big screen and they’ll be letting off a grey balloon as a tribute to those who have passed and as a sign of hope for those still battling.’’
There is an online auction to win a golf game with Hughes and great mate Danny Buderus at Newcastle Golf Club, including transport, followed by lunch at Merewether Surfhouse.
The other auction item includes two tickets in the chairman’s lounge for the game against the Dragons on Sunday, a pre-game sideline meeting with former Knights greats, and a post-game tour of the dressing-room to meet past and present players.
Bidding closes at 7pm tonight and and further information is available on the MHF website.
Hughes has scans every three months to keep on top of his condition. The most recent of those was last week, and showed he is in good health, but he takes nothing for granted.
‘‘A small donation would be great, and if not on Sunday, any support in the future will be much appreciated. When push comes to shove, people in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley and everywhere locally really get behind you, and that’s what they’ve done for me,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s been overwhelming the support we’ve had, and we can’t thank people enough for that.’’