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Star power kicks off Hunter Rugby’s RUN DIPG charity round

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Australian Test great Stephen Larkham and current Wallaby Nic White will throw their support behind Hunter Rugby’s RUN DIPG Charity Round this weekend.

The special occasion also doubles as the season opener for the Premier 1 competition, with six teams – premiers Merewether Carlton, Hamilton, Wanderers, Maitland, University of Newcastle and Southern Beaches – vying for the 2023 crown following the shock withdrawals of the Singleton Bulls and Nelson Bay Gropers.

The pair, with more than 150 national caps between them, is expected to join RUN DIPG founder Matt Dun and general manager Jo Bennett, as well as numerous families from the organisation, at various grounds on Saturday 15 April.

Nic White speaking to media
Scone product Nic White in Merewether.

Larkham, who played in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups, represented the “green and gold” at international level 102 times.

His versatility allowed him to make the transition from fullback to flyhalf with ease, too.

He spent his career with the ACT Brumbies from 1996 until 2007, returning to the club as head coach for the 2023 and 2024 Super Rugby Pacific seasons.

Scone product White is a regular visitor to the region.

A member of the Brumbies as well, he’s been an integral component in the Wallabies’ squad in recent years.

“It’s certainly a coup to get Stephen and Nic involved, we’re very lucky,” Bennett said.

“We’re extremely excited.

“The boys will start at Townson Oval for the third grade clash, before heading to No.2 Sportsground for the ‘seconds’ and then Bernie Curran Oval prior to the main fixture between University of Newcastle and Maitland.

“They’ll be mingling with the players and supporters.

“We’ll also have little gifts [miniature rugby balls] for the children, which the guys can sign.

“Nic has strong ties to the Hunter as well.

“He’s a Maitland Blacks’ junior, while his sister is involved with the club.

“So, there’s a childhood connection there.

“Matt (Dun) helps coach his beloved University side, too.

“That’s why they’re attending the last game of the day at Bernie Curran Oval.

“There’s more than a bit of interest in it – a friendly rivalry so to speak.”

leukaemia
Biomedical scientist University of Newcastle Associate Professor Matt Dun.

RUN DIPG is a charity dedicated to improving outcomes for patients, families and communities impacted by the deadliest form of childhood cancer – the brainstem cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), also known as diffuse midline glioma (DMG).

DIPG’s a tumour that forms in the “pons”, the brain’s control centre located atop the spinal cord.

A type of DMG, the cancer is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.

At the moment, there are no treatments for DIPG/DMG, so patients typically stay alive a matter of months following diagnosis.

Tragically, just 10% survive two years and less than 1% survive five years.

“We’re committed to raising awareness, empowering advocates and fundraising to support DMG/DIPG research,” Bennett said.

“So, this weekend, with Stephen and Nic on board, is a huge campaign for us.

“Our sole purpose is to raise awareness because lots of people still don’t know what DIPG is.

“Sadly, another local girl, Flo Turner from Lake Macquarie, has been diagnosed with DIPG.

“A GoFundMe page was recently established to assist the three-year-old and her parents.

“But, it’s hard on everyone.

“All I can say, the families involved with our charity are absolutely phenomenal; they are just amazing.”

Bennett said the local rugby union community’s backing would continue even further this month.

“The Hunter Wildfires are taking part next weekend as well,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“They’ve got a 6.05pm game on Saturday 22 April against West Harbour at No.2 Sportsground.

“So, we’ll be out at the ground promoting RUN DIPG.

“It’s a great rugby family… and we’re appreciative of everything they do to help us spread the word.”

Hunter Rugby

Premier 1

Round one draw (Saturday 15 April):

  • 3pm: Wanderers v Hamilton (No.2 Sportsground)
  • 3pm: University of Newcastle v Maitland (Bernie Curran Oval)
  • 3pm: Merewether Carlton v Southern Beaches (Townson Oval)

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