Mark Hughes – an inspiration to others

In the first of our features on former Catholic schools’ students and the successes they have achieved in their chosen field of endeavour, we speak to Mark Hughes.

Mark needs little or no introduction to Novocastrians given the success he has achieved as a rugby league player with the Newcastle Knights and the role he now plays with the Mark Hughes Foundation

The Foundation is a charity formed in Newcastle by Mark and Kirralee Hughes following Mark’s diagnosis with Brain Cancer in 2014. Its mission is to raise much needed funds for research, to create awareness of brain cancer and to support brain cancer patients and their families.

Which Catholic schools did you attend?

From Kindergarten to Year 2, I was at Holy Spirit, Abermain and from Year 2-6 I was at Holy Spirit, Kurri Kurri. From Year 7 to Year 10, I was at St Peter's in Maitland and then from Year 11, I was at St Mary's in Maitland

Why were Catholic schools the choice of school?

My parents both attended Catholic schools. Because they went through the Catholic school system, they wanted me to wanted me to follow in their footsteps and follow the same path as them.

What do you consider are the main benefits that you received from a Catholic education?

The schools I attended gave me the belief, discipline, some great teachers who I still see to this day, a great circle of friends and lots of options to fulfil my love of sports.

Do your children – Zac, Dane and Bonnie - attend Catholic schools, and why?

Yes. I feel like I came out of Catholic schools as a good human being so I want the same for my children.

I have had a lot of success in my life and my Catholic education has helped me make the right choices and choose the right paths.

How did your Catholic education help you face and overcome some of the major challenges in your life such as becoming a professional rugby league player and coping with the major challenge to your health when you were diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014?

You learn beliefs and good disciplines in the Catholic schools’ system. These beliefs and disciplines have helped me handle all the high and lows of my life.

For example, I think I handled my highs (Mark won grand finals with the Knights in 1997 and 2001) fairly well because I never got carried away with them. This was because when I was at school I idolised certain rugby league players. At the time I made a promise to myself that if ever I became successful in rugby league, I would treat all people – and especially rugby league fans - with respect.

The way Mark responded to the challenge of facing the lowest low of his life – being diagnosed with brain cancer – is detailed in how he and his wife set up the Mark Hughes Foundation as follows:

“We began the Foundation when we realised how underfunded brain cancer was in Australia in comparison to other cancers. The lack of funding meant very little research into treatments or cures for brain cancer and, as a result, not much has changed in the shocking brain cancer mortality rates over the past 30 years.

“We had no idea when we started our Foundation and set about raising funds for some much needed research, the incredible amount of support we would receive from people everywhere.

“To date the Foundation has raised over 10 million in five years, funded a Brain Cancer Biobank, Travel Grants Program, 10 research projects including two Fellowships and a Brain Cancer Care Coordinator. Amazing! And all thanks to our supporters and our tireless volunteers.

“Ultimately research means better outcomes for brain cancer patients but research is expensive - so we will continue to make it our priority to raise funds and ensure those funds get to where they are needed most. Our Foundation is a very small organisation that runs mostly on the generosity of our supporters and some community grants which allows us to keep the running costs to a bare minimum so that one day, maybe in my lifetime, together, we will find a cure for brain cancer.”

This year in October Mark and a group of 40 MHF Supporters will trek to Borneo to raise funds for brain cancer research.

“This year we will bike ride over 120km, trek the Sandakan death, march in the footsteps of our Australian soldiers, climb Mount Kinabalu (over 4100m) and whitewater raft our way from one side of Borneo to the other. It is a significant challenge!”

If you would like to donate to this worthy cause please follow the link below:

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John Kingsley-Jones Image
John Kingsley-Jones

John Kingsley-Jones was the Head of Diocesan Communications from September 2017 to July 2019. 

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