IT WAS the surprise on-field proposal that went viral.
East Maitland's Rhali Dobson was retiring from the W-League to support her boyfriend - Matt Stonham - during his treatment for brain cancer.
As the Melbourne City striker and former Matilda ran off the field to celebrate her final game in March, she felt a tap on the shoulder, and turned to find Mr Stonham down on one knee.
"He did well," she laughed.
This week, as Ms Dobson begins a 150-kilometre trek from Sydney to Newcastle to raise money for the Mark Hughes Foundation, her fiance will commence 48 weeks of aggressive chemotherapy.
"We're in for a rough 12 months, but it's all for the greater good in terms of getting a better long term prognosis for us and our future," Ms Dobson said.
Six years ago, Mr Stonham was playing in goals for Maitland Football Club when the captain suffered a seizure.
Despite doctors initially declaring it a concussion, Ms Dobson - an occupational therapist - knew there was something bigger at play, and pushed for further testing.
"He was in the middle of the game," Ms Dobson said.
"He'd just made a great double save and coincidentally, I was at the game. Normally, I'd be playing as well, but I'd torn my quad.
"His recount on the field was that he tried to speak and nothing would come out. He was losing sensation in his hands. And then he said the world just started to go. He lost all vision.
"He remembers hearing me scream."
Scans revealed Mr Stonham had stage two brain cancer. He underwent surgery and "a small stint" of chemotherapy.
Then in March this year, a routine check-up revealed the cancer had returned. Stage three.
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From Thursday to Saturday, Ms Dobson will participate in a three-day, 150-kilometre trek to fundraise for brain cancer. She will join a group of passionate Hunter Mark Hughes Foundation supporters - including sportspeople, celebrities and TV personalities - to walk from the NRL headquarters in Sydney to McDonald Jones Stadium ahead of the Beanie for Brain Cancer Round.
"It is a cause very close to my heart, now in particular," Ms Dobson said. "All the little things - any form of awareness or education, is going to help someone down the track. Matt is the first grade coach at Bolwarra Lorn Football Club, but he won't be coaching this weekend. He'll be at McDonald Jones Stadium, waiting for me."
Ms Dobson and Mr Stonham plan to marry on December 1, 2022. They hope it will be "one big celebration" to toast their marriage and the end of his treatment.
"We picked the 1st, as corny as it sounds, because it will be the first day moving forward and putting this all behind us," she said.
"The Big Three" trek organiser, Luke Alexander, said he had a football coach who had died from brain cancer "many years ago", and wanted to do something for the cause.
The born and bred Newcastle lad had initially recruited two of his mates - Nathan Hill and Ethan Coker - to join him on the fundraising walk.
But they now have about 30 people participating in the full three-day trek, as well as a roster of TV, radio and sports personalities joining them on parts of the trek.
They had raised more than $50,000 to date.
To donate, search for "The Big Three: 150km Trek" at markhughesfoundation.com.au.
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