KIDNEYS FOR SALE
By ADRIAN MILLER
WHAT would you do to help your sporting idol?
Hold a raffle for the local club maybe? Perhaps send them a 'herogram' before a major competition?
How about selling your kidney for $100,000 so your hero could continue in their chosen sport?
For one Grafton man and his mate, that is exactly what they are trying to do.
Royal Hotel publican Ben Bartlett and former South Grafton resident Aaron Watters are looking to donate a kidney each for a sponsorship deal for motorbike rider Anthony West.
West, 24, is one of Australia's best, and least known, riders.
He debuted on the world circuit in 1998, but has struggled to secure quality bikes due to a lack of sponsorship opportunities.
That said, he is earmarked by those in the know as a man to watch, and last weekend finished ninth in round three of the 250cc MotoGP World Championship Series in Turkey.
Mr Bartlett said he had supported West since 1998 and was willing to do anything to help him out.
"We've been mad keen Anthony West fans from the day he started racing and we just see so much potential there, it breaks our hearts that nobody will give him money for a proper ride, so we're doing what we can," he said.
But donating a kidney for a man they barely know?
"It wasn't my idea, it was Aaron's," he said.
"He was up in Townsville late one Friday night when he rang me and said 'we can sell our kidneys', and I said 'I don't think you're allowed to', but he just said 'f... it'."
So now the search is on for a buyer.
Mr Bartlett started the bidding with an ebay auction in early April, but that was pulled after less than a day.
"In the 18 hours it was up it had 1500 views and nine bids for about $600," he said.
"But it had a reserve price of $100,000."
But even that won't be enough to secure West a factory bike.
"The actual money they are looking for is around $650,000 all up," he said.
"What he's riding is pretty much what you can go and buy in the shop right now and whack $20,000-$30,000 into the bike and that's pretty much what he's riding.
"There's riders out there who rent the engine, just for the year, for $2 million, so to compete on a $40,000 bike is pretty incredible."
In this year's championship West is riding an Aprilla for the Kiefer-BOS-Racing team. But will they really go through with it if a sponsor puts up the cash?
"We are quite serious about this," he said. "If someone will help Anthony then we're happy to help someone else."
While the law prohibits the lads selling their kidneys, Mr Bartlett claimed they were able to circumvent that by donating them in return for a sponsorship deal.
Mr Bartlett hasn't had any contact with West, but he has spoken to his father, Tony.
"He said 'I'll be selling my kidney before you boys are getting cut open, you're both a pair of idiots and we'll do something to raise the money before we have to go down that path'," Mr Bartlett said.
Mr Bartlett isn't sure if the plan will work, but the Royal Hotel will soon be holding a sporting auction night to help raise money for West.
He said plans were afoot to bring Wayne Gardner to town for the event, as well as other well known personalities.
"We're trying to get some media exposure to show that someone in a small country pub is doing their bit to support Australian sport," he said.