Jarryd Roughead is an AFL star, and he plays for the current three-time premiership team Hawthorn. He is a key forward-cum-pinch-hit-ruckman for the Hawks, and is an extremely popular player with fans and fellow players. His popularity transcends the tribal demarcations which define the people of Melbourne and the rest of Australia. He is a red-head, a blood-nut in footy terminology. A great big bloke and a cheerful sort of chap. He plays the game the way it is meant to be played, is what they say about Jarryd Roughead.
When it was reported last year that Jarryd Roughead was having some time off during the season to have some cancerous growths removed from his face, it was to this outsider, no big deal. He plays an outdoor sport under an Australian sky, a few skin cancers seemed par for the course. He returned to the field and helped hungry Hawthorn to another helping from the premiership cup (greedy buggers, thought this Swans supporter). In the aftermath of the news that his cancer has not only come back but moved to another part of his body, his lungs, we are all shocked. He is soon to undergo twelve months of revolutionary immunotherapy treatment in a bid to beat the return of the melanoma.
Somehow, this is not supposed to happen to champion football players, fit young fellas with the world at their feet, they are blessed by the footballing gods. Jarryd Roughead is certain to be Australia’s biggest cancer news story in 2016. That may not be fair to those who are suffering far worse fates at the hands of the cancer scourge, but life is not fair in that way. Celebrities hog the biggest portion of everything, good fortune, good times, and the news is just part of all that attention.
The fact that Jarryd could soon be fighting for his life, rather than just another flag (albeit for four in a row) is a sobering thought. Sport, in many ways, is an escape from real life for us fans, to be confronted with the curse of cancer upon one of the good guys of the game is a bitter swill to swallow. Team mates and fellow players from other teams have declared their support on social media for Roughy. The media have shed their shallow tears in bucket loads and sombre hosts have toned down their usual bonhomie. Jarryd Roughead has called for time-out from the media circus and indicated he doesn’t want to be made a fuss of (he comes from the bush). Let’s hope that one of the all-time good guys gets a good outcome in this new game of life.
Australia is rich with caucasian skin, it’s this country’s European heritage, and we’re just not that adapted to the Australian sun. With a hole in the ozone layer the size of New South Wales directly above us, we’re more susceptible than ever to melanomas, or skin cancer, whichever you wish to call it. We can but hope that education and science can move us further away from the risks and pains that come with these forms of cancer, but for now Jarryd Roughead’s cancer diagnosis and ongoing challenges, including the possibilities of immunotherapy, might give us all a guiding light towards a future less humanly vulnerable than right now here in 2016 – this is a larger theme around why Jarryd’s journey is Australia’s biggest cancer news story of 2016. We love you JR!!!