Fairfax journalists remember Jon Mannah
RIP Jon Mannah
Jon Mannah warming up for his return game for Cronulla against Balmain Ryde. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Michael Chammas: I had the privilege of playing against Jon Mannah as a junior during his days at Guildford alongside his brother, Tim. Even though Jon was a year younger than everyone, he was still one of the biggest players on the field and a bloke you did everything you could to avoid tackling.
He struck fear into the hearts of many on the field, but a gentle giant off it. A fierce competitor whose fighting spirit shone through during his three-and-a-half year battle with cancer. RIP Jon Mannah.
Daniel Lane: It wasn't seen as a miracle when Johnny Mannah packed down for Cronulla's NSW Cup team against Balmain Ryde-Eastwood after his battle with cancer, but two-and-a-half years later as the league world mourns his passing we should appreciate it was close to being one. We trumpeted his return as a triumph of faith and the fact he returned from the hospital ward to footy field was a special moment. He achieved it after a lot of hard work, support from the Sharks - particularly the-then first grade coach Ricky Stuart - and, in Johnny's words, his belief in God.
Religion was important to Johnny and it obviously helped sustain him through a terrible battle. Indeed, he made a point of declaring his devotion to a higher being while still dressed in his battle colours that wonderful June afternoon at old Henson Park.
"The week after each treatment was really tough. I was home-bound and there were times when I was quite low ... your emotions go up and down ... but one thing that was rock solid was God. I can't stop thanking God," he said.
I once played in a game of cricket with Johnny and his brother Tim, it was the only time I really spent in his company. He struck me as a gentleman and decent bloke with the world at his feet. Johnny Mannah's strength of faith would most likely suggest we don't question God's wisdom or His decision to call people with so much life in them. Out of respect for his memory and his belief, I won't. RIP Jon Mannah.
Adrian Proszenko: Jon Mannah used to say he drew inspiration from watching his big brother play for his club and state. But Tim reckons it worked the other way as well.
"He was inspiring me when I was training every day, knowing what he was going through," Tim said last year.
They were a close family. They used to do a milk run together and when a stem cell transplant was required, the older sibling stepped forward. They played against each other, but their dream was always to run out together for Parramatta. It's a tragedy it cannot be realised.
Going through the notes from my last interview with Jon. I've been privileged to meet some tremendous people through my job but the Mannah boys stand out. I still recall them laughing over THAT wedgie when Jon, then playing at Cronulla, squared off against big brother Tim. Sub-editors didn't have to think too hard when they came up with 'Mannah from Heaven'.
Jon Mannah: "My family has been number one in all of this, God has given me that family to lean on when I need to. They have been unreal. The fans have been really good and the club has been good, letting me do my bit when I feel up to it and catch up with the boys and do promos and whatnot. My brother tells me that people are always asking how I'm doing when he out. I'm grateful for the network of support I've got."
RIP Jon Mannah.
Glenn Jackson: Jon Mannah fought such a long and public battle, but I don't recall seeing him too often without a smile on his face. I interviewed Tim at the Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick; he had come there to visit sick kids immediately after sitting by the bedside of his sick brother, who was in St Vincent's Hospital. That selflessness was typical of the two of them. They wanted a greater good out of all the setbacks Jon had suffered. Both have been intent on helping others while Jon's greatest battle still lay ahead of him. So many people have been touched by Jon's battle. They will again be today, and they will continue to be. That will be his legacy. RIP Jon Mannah.
Brad Walter: Jon Mannah was an inspiration to everyone involved with rugby league and a guy who made you realise there were bigger things in life than a footy game. Jon always put on a brave face in his battle with cancer and gave the impression he had never given up hope of fulfilling the potential he showed at Parramatta and Cronulla before being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2009. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him. RIP Jon Mannah.
Paul Suttor: It's a truly tragic day for rugby league. As a Sharks fan, my enduring memory of Jon Mannah is of a tough, brave player who never shirked his duty of doing the hard yards. He showed even more courage off the field during his brave fight with cancer. RIP Jon Mannah.
Michael Carayannis: When I first met Jonny, it was during the 2010 off-season. While he strove to fight away the cancer his major concern was getting back on the field to repay the faith Cronulla had shown in him.
‘‘But since I was told the news [remission] I've been feeling very strong,’’ he told Fairfax Media in February 2010.
"I've got a few more treatments and I hope to be back in full training in six to eight weeks.
"Ricky [Stuart] and the club have been fantastic, keeping me on their books and looking after me. Now, I just want to have the chance to repay them, by playing.''
His big smile and his presence lifted his teammates and the club more than he ever knew. RIP Jon Mannah.