All Saints College, St Peter's Alumni awarded citizen of the year

Each year, the City of Newcastle celebrates the achievements of individuals who have made a significant difference in their local community - by presenting one of them with the Australia Day Citizen of the Year award. This year’s recipient was All Saints College, St Peter’s alumni, Mark Hughes.

Mark is best known for his rugby league career with the Newcastle Knights which ran from 1997 until 2005.

Newcastle Knights and rugby career highlights

Amazingly, in his first-ever season with the Knights, Mark played on the wing when the Knight were victorious over Manly Sea Eagles in the 1997 Grand Final.

In 2001, playing as centre, he led the Knights to victory in the Grand Final. In that same year he was chosen to play as fullback for the New South Wales Blues in all three games of the 2001 State Of Origin series.

Brain cancer diagnosis and the Mark Hughes Foundation

In 2013, a few years after he had retired from rugby league, Mark began to experience severe headaches, and in July of the same year, he was diagnosed with a Grade 3 high grade Oligoastrocytoma - a severe form of brain cancer.

“To say the conclusive results from an MRI of my brain on 18th July, 2013 were life changing seems an understatement, cliche and yet it truly was,” Mark recalls.

“The news was devastating for me and my family, hard to comprehend. I tried to stay positive and the early indications were that the tumour was in a good operable position. No sooner had I digested the prognosis, I underwent brain surgery to successfully remove an avocado-sized posterior cerebral tumour at John Hunter Hospital on Friday 2 August.

“My recovery from surgery was accompanied by double vision and hallucinations, which thankfully quickly improved,” says Mark on his website for the Mark Hughes Foundation.

Following his operation, Mark underwent 33 radiation sessions and endured six-months of oral chemotherapy. His treatment has been augmented by dietary changes which keep his from eating carbs, sugar and dairy. 

“I’m incredibly indebted to some really amazing people that have helped me fight my battles so far. I’ve got three beautiful kids and a beautiful wife and they’re my motivation to make sure I tackle this cancer with everything I’ve got.

“I’ve accepted that it’s a journey and a path I’ve been given now, and with that an opportunity to turn something negative into something truly positive. The Mark Hughes Foundation is a way I can truly repay those who’ve helped me and help others in my position.” Mark says on his website.

Newcastle’s Australia Day Citizen of the Year award

The Mark Hughes Foundation was created in 2015 and is a way for the Novocastrian native, and cancer survivor, to give back to those who helped him survive his cancer diagnosis and to ease the suffering of others who are going through what he went through in 2013.

Since its inception, Mark and his foundation have managed to raise more than $5 million for brain cancer research.

In 2016, the Mark Hughes Foundation entered into a three-year funding arrangement with the John Hunter Hospital to provide the region’s first care coordination nurse for people with brain cancer.

The Mark Hughes Foundation’s most recent fund-raising efforts included a 9-day trek from Kathmandu to Everest base camp which raised nearly $500,000 for brain cancer research.

To learn more about Mark Hughes and the Mark Hughes Foundation, and to stay up-to-date with the foundation’s fundraising efforts, you can follow the official Mark Hughes Foundation Facebook Page.