With a packed schedule full off training, travelling and media appearances it seems free time comes as a real rarity for professional rugby players, so when you see individuals helping their local community it surely must bring a smile to peoples faces.
A few weeks ago players from Super 15 side Waikato Chiefs took to their local shopping mall in Hamilton to have their heads shaved as part of the ‘Shave for a cure’ campaign. The countries long standing charity Leukemia and Blood cancer New Zealand organized the event with players such as Liam Messam, Sonny Bill Williams, Craig Clarke and Richard Kahui all willing to have their finely styled hair shaved in support of the charity.
From reading Richard Kahui’s blog the support they received at this event was nothing short of spectacular and the fact so many players were happy to get involved was a great thing to see. We saw how the earthquake affected Christchurch just last year and so many of the Crusaders players got involved to help their City and help aid the appeal. Likewise the ‘Shave for a cure’ and ‘Movember’ campaign has also been influenced heavily by rugby, with clubs not just top flight getting involved to raise mass awareness.
We all know how devastating cancer and leukemia and can be, so helping these organizations to come up with a cure and raise awareness is the greatest thing people can do. I guess the added bonus in having professional sportsmen/women involved can increase awareness even more, and in this case having some of the Chiefs most respected players at the event drew huge crowds to the Hamilton shopping mall.
Sonny Bill Wiliams seemed to have the most fans at the event with hundreds of people keen to talk to the superstar, but generally all the players were happy to give interviews, so it was nice to hear Chiefs captain Craig Clarke shedding some positivity on the fundraising event.
“Obviously people look up to us and look at what we’re doing. I know it’s just a small thing we do but hopefully people realise that if we get in behind it hopefully some others will.”
It was also interesting to hear more about Chiefs and New Zealand outside half Aaron Cruden and his struggle with cancer. The 23 year old was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 19, so having his head shaved was nothing new to him. Luckily for Cruden he was able to shift the disease and the following year he captained New Zealand to a Junior World Championship in Japan and was named IRB Junior Player of the year. Since then he has featured nine times for the All Blacks and also picked up a World Cup winners medal in the 2011 final at Eden Park.
As well as supporting Cruden and raising awareness for the ‘Shave for a Cure’ campaign, the Chiefs former team doctor Zig Khouri lost his son to Leukaemia four months ago and since then Khouri has set up his own campaign called ‘Shave 12’ in tribute to his late son Benjamin. The player’s were all very close to their long standing doctor and a big part of getting their heads shaved was in memory of Zig’s son. Messam seemed to be the one who rallied the troops and it was nice to see most the Chiefs players take part.
All the players seemed very close to their former doctor and co-captain Liam Messam was the first to provide some encouraging words in memory of Khouri’s son Ben. “For me it’s important to give back to our team doctor Zig Khouri, just getting behind him and supporting his family is always a good way. For us to get our heads shaved was the least we could do, because we’ve lost a family member in Zig’s son.”
by Dan Newman