Round 2 Preview

Liam Hickey hopes the charity fundraiser between Wodonga Raiders and Myrtleford will trigger a conversation which continues long after the lights have been switched out at Birallee Park.

Following the tragic death of his brother Ben at the age of 31 in December, Hickey has felt a passion stir inside him to raise awareness of the brain cancer which rocked his family.

Hickey was working on the pearl boats in Broome when he found out Ben had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

“I remember Dad calling me and that was a big moment,” Hickey said.

“You hear of things happening to other families and you definitely feel for those families but you never really think it’s going to happen to yours – so the heart sink in that moment was massive.

“Being so far spread and feeling so far away from each other during that time – Ben being in South Africa, myself in Western Australia, sister in Melbourne, Mum and dad in Albury-Wodonga – it wasn’t like we had a chance to rally together straight away.”

Two open-head surgeries later, Ben’s prognosis was clear… and it wasn’t good.

Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of brain cancer and with no known method of preventing the cancer, the average survival time after diagnosis is less than a year.

Ben, whose love of Tony Lockett saw him ditch St Kilda to barrack for the Sydney Swans – “much to Dad’s disgust,” Hickey added – was never able to get back to his junior club.

“Dad played in the first Wodonga Raiders side when they moved in from Bethanga Demons so our family ties have always been with the Raiders,” Hickey explained.

“Ben started in the junior ranks and by the time I got to the club, Ben was playing U16s and looking into the thirds squad.

“I definitely looked up to him and everything that he could do on the footy field. I always wanted to do stuff that would impress him.

“He had so much fight and go in him so to see that be taken from him slowly, we were able to get him home a few times but we knew the end was coming.

“Yeah, it was tough.

“At the funeral, so many Raider boys came down wearing their polos which was so nice to see when I jumped up and did his reflection, looking out and seeing all of those boys who had my back.”

Raiders and Myrtleford have come together to raise funds for Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer and while Saints A-grade netball coach Liv La Spina may technically represent the opposition, it’s been very much a united front.

“I discussed with the club that I have some personal ties in being really good friends with Liam and (sister) Neve and the board backed me from the get-go,” La Spina said.

“It even brought up stories of our local community being touched, with volunteers having been affected by brain cancer. 

“It can be a really great thing when two clubs come together and agree on one cause.

“It raises a bigger conversation, that there’s more to life than sport and what happens on your Saturday.”