Mark of a man
MARK Hall leans forward across the table and a serious thought crosses his mind: “I look after myself … but if I didn't, I don't know what the outcome would be”.
You see, Mark has been battling cancer for the past seven years. Ongoing radiation treatments have taken their toll, but Mark has shown remarkable courage – with a little help from his friends.
Apart from his wife and family members Mark has found a reason to keep fighting – not giving up on the most precious gift in the world, life itself.
Mark's relationship with the Grafton Ghosts has kept him busy, taking his mind off what he describes as “a setback in life”.
At 51, Mark has taken on the task of nurturing young footballers, giving them advice and helping prepare them for the rigors and demands of local rugby league.
Last week I sat down with Mark at his Dovedale home overlooking the Clarence River to discuss football, his love of the game and the support he has received from those closest to him.
Mark started his playing career with the Ghosts in 1974 and after stints with the Rebels and Lower Clarence returned four years ago to lend a hand.
“I started my junior league with the Ghosts and in 1980 went down to Maclean,” he recalls.
“I actually won the highest award, which is the Rocky Laurie Memorial Award, in 1980. The same year I also came runner-up in the Group Player of the Year.
“I left the Magpies in 1982 and played with the Rebels until I retired in 1995. I was 35-years-old.
“Now I'm back where I started with the Ghosts”
Part of the reason Mark became involved with the Ghosts was the signing of his brother-in-law as coach. Mark takes up the story.
“I got a phone call in 2007 from the president, Michael Rogan, and he said ‘we have a coaching application from your brother-in-law',” Mark says.
“So I gave my opinion, Col got the job and I started giving him a hand.”
“In 2003 I was working for Armourguard and slipped off the back of a vehicle,” Mark reveals.
“After six weeks I still wasn't feeling any better so I went to the doctors. They did an ultra-sound and they diagnosed me with cancer in the thyroid.
“They took it out and said there are five different types of cancer in the thyroid and you have the best one.
“I've had several reoccurrences since and had a total seven operations. So after the initial radiation treatment I was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
“So that's okay, they got that sorted out with a drug then a couple of years later I went for a check-up and they discovered the thyroid cancer had spread to my lungs.”
Just six weeks ago Mark was rushed to Sydney for a life-saving operation after he suffered an aneurysm.
“I had an aneurysm about six weeks ago. It was thyroid cancer again to the brain,” he says.
“I'm lucky to be alive. When they did the scan they picked up two tumours and multiple tumours in the brain.
“They took the two small ones out and I've just finished 15 treatments of radiation.”
According to Mark, he has a different perspective on life and does what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“As a person it has made me want to work with my body, not against it,” Mark explains.
“It's made me more responsible for what I do. I don't smoke cigarettes anymore and look after myself.
“If I didn't, I don't know what the outcome would be.”
Mark's garage may resemble a gymnasium, but it's a place where he finds solace, helping players reach their goals.
“I love what I'm doing with the footballers,” he says.
“In general they have kept me feeling good. I'm working with them and I'm totally there for them. “It's a big thing for me. Col (Speed) asked me to come back and help and it's certainly been a big part of my life.
“Having the footballers around me takes my mind in the right place.”
“I have no idea what the future has in store, I'll just go with the flow,” Mark says.
“I don't think about what I've got, I think about what I can achieve. I don't sit down and feel sorry for myself.
“I could quite easily throw it in, but that's not me … I've always been a competitor.”
“I woke up last Sunday to see all these footballers, coaches and officials from the Ghosts turn up to help put a new roof on our house,” Mark explains.
“I didn't expect that many people to turn up. The boys played footy on Saturday night and would have celebrated with a few drinks, but they worked from 8am till the sun went down.
“It brought a tear to my eye. It just goes to show how strong the club's going.
“The players not only stick together on the field, but off it as well.
“I must give a big thanks to Tony Muller and Ben McLennan for organising the day.”
“I really want to thank everyone that has helped me, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Mark says with a waver in his voice.
“Particularly my family, close friends and my wife Jenny.
“Johnny Brown has also been there from day one.”