Since being diagnosed six months ago with an aggressive form of brain cancer, Zach Harris has had days of physical and emotional pain that no 17-year-old should even consider let alone endure.
There has been surgery, chemo and radiation therapy and many dark days for the Beresfield teenager, but Sunday wasn’t one of them.
Zach received the full VIP treatment as his beloved Wests Tigers scored a long-overdue win against the Newcastle Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“It’s been so hard for him, he has withdrawn into himself and when he asked his mum Mandy whether they could go to the footy on Sunday to see the Tigers play she had to say no as they didn’t have the money,” Vicky Nichols, Mandy’s friend since school, said.
“Mandy’s a single mum and every cent they have has gone to paying for Zach’s treatment and keeping the family going.”
When Vicky and another of Mandy’s friends Lisa Saxby heard Zach wanted to go to the footy, they hit the phones.
Matt Wilson, a friend through football, continued the chain of calls to Knights legend Bill Peden and soon Zach not only had his day at the footy but the biggest day at the footy a fan could imagine.
Not aware of what was to come, Zach said he had been following the Tigers for several years and was looking forward to seeing them play.
He started to get an inkling that this might not be any ordinary day at the footy when a stretch limousine arrived. As part of the package Zach, his mum, little sister Abbey, 9, Abbey’s dad Glenn, Vicky and Lisa were also delivered home after the match.
At the ground the family was met by Peden who had a few surprises up his sleeve to give Zach and his family a day to forget everything and just enjoy life.
First there was a signed jersey organised by Wests Tigers’ Joel Edwards and then to the Knights change rooms where coach Nathan Brown introduced Zach to the players.
That was just the entree as Zach and him mum were escorted up stairs to their platinum seats to watch the game.
Peden was acutely aware of the trauma associated with brain cancer through his good mate and former premiership teammate Mark Hughes and said it was a privilege to chip in and give Zach and his family a great day.
“I put a call through to the Knights and Browny and then Joel Edwards at the Tigers. They were all just so happy to help.” he said.
After watching the Tigers win, it was Edwards’ turn to give Zach the VIP treatment – access to the winning change rooms to join the celebrations with his favourite player Aaron Woods.
Lisa and Vicky have organised a series of fundraising events to help Zach and his family. It kicks off with a sausage sizzle at Beresfield Food For Less on Saturday and will also include an event with the Thornton-Beresfield Bears Rugby League Club.
Anyone wanting to help out can also make a donation to a fundraising account at the Greater Bank, BSB:63700, ACC: 722 036 417, Comment: Zach.