Parramatta NRL player Jon Mannah has died after a long battle with cancer.
Mannah, who lost his 3½-year battle with cancer overnight, was highly regarded by those at Cronulla and had more impact on those at the club than his 24 games between 2009 to 2011 would suggest.
Mannah's blossoming career came to an abrupt halt in 2009 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
After fighting his way back to full fitness, the Guildford junior played a further 12 games for Cronulla in 2011 before returning to his junior club Parramatta to play alongside his older brother Tim.
Unfortunately for Mannah, he had a relapse in his battle with cancer in March last year while fighting his way back into the NRL through Eels feeder club Wentworthville.
Tim Mannah said his family were on Friday celebrating what he described as a great life that would continue to inspire people.
‘‘Everyone who knows him is aware of how strong Johnny was,’’ said his brother.
‘‘Even me, he never stopped surprising me with how tough he was. Obviously on the footy side of things you had to be tough to do what he did, and to see how hard he trained at Parramatta for three months with really bad cancer ... he pretty much had a hole in his intestines ... and to see how well he trained spun me out.
‘‘Over the last two weeks he was in a ridiculous amount of pain and he never showed it, he’d never tell people. The medical staff were freaking out because they said on paper he should be in a lot worse state than he is but he was coping so well. I think that was more of a case of him not showing much and it was another testament of how strong he was.’’
‘‘There aren’t many 23-year-old people who achieved what he did in life. He played in the front row for first grade at 19 and to get cancer, to get through it and to play NRL again was a phenomenal thing. To do what he did and touch so many people was an exciting story for him.
‘‘His faith in God that drove him, drove all of us. He was put to the test and I think our faith has been the best part of our lives over the past few years. Coming to the hospital this morning to say goodbye to him and seeing the smile on his face . . . I think of how peaceful it was ... he knew this wasn’t the end, he was going home to heaven.’’
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan also paid tribute to Jon Mannah by declaring the club a better place for having called him one of their own.
The club and a lot of the players are better off for having known such a gentleman.Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan
A devastated Flanagan said the club was in mourning following the loss of the former prop, but highlighted his bravery throughout the tough ordeal he confronted.
“Everyone here at the Sharks are better for knowing Jonny Mannah,” Flanagan said.
“The club and a lot of the players are better off for having known such a gentleman. We didn’t really know about what he was going through because he was just so tough and he never really showed any signs of ‘poor me’. He was always respectful.
“After his chemo and treatment I remember this one time we actually went to the Children’s Hospital and he was handing out gifts when he was going through his own battle. He never wanted people to feel sorry for him. He was such a tough person but such a gentleman.
Sharks chairman Damian Irvine took to twitter to announce: "Condolences will be held tonight, tomorrow and sunday from 6:30-9:30pm at Faith Baptist Regents park.support Johnny & his faith."
In July last year, a resilient Mannah told Fairfax Media that he was optimistic about his chances of overcoming the disease.
''I wouldn't say I've given up, no - definitely not,'' Mannah said.
''I'm uncertain about it and I don't know if it will happen again. But I won't be giving up on it any time soon.
''I know I'm going to get through this,'' he said.
Mannah never complained and was always grateful for the support of his family and friends.
''It has been [an ordeal], but I've been all right with it mentally,'' he said in July.
''That doesn't say anything about me, but the people around me. I'll come out the other end. It's just a matter of putting up with the procedures and whatnot.''
The Parramatta club issued a statement via Twitter.
"The Parramatta Eels send their heartfelt condolences to the Mannah family after the passing of 23 year old Jon overnight. Such a sad loss."
Mannah's death prompted an outpouring of support from the rugby league community on Twitter.
"Thinking of u Timmy and the whole Mannah family Johnny was an absolute gentleman it was a pleasure to know him. Best wishes," NSW Origin and Cronulla captain Paul Gallen tweeted.
NSW Origin and Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah, who lost his mother to cancer last year, also paid his respects to the Mannah family.
‘‘So sad to hear about the tragic passing of Jon Mannah. Prayers and thoughts are with the whole Mannah family. Life can be so cruel,’’ Farah tweeted
Thoughts and prayers go out to the Mannah family during this tough time. God has a plan and purpose for everything. @tim_mannah— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) January 17, 2013
Tragic news hearing about the passing of Jon Mannah. Thoughts and prayers with @tim_mannah and his family.— James Maloney (@jim_jim86) January 17, 2013
Devastated. Fought a good fight mate, you were a kind and loving bloke who always had the toughness to mix it up on the park. RIP Jon Mannah— Chad Townsend (@chadtownsend10) January 17, 2013
Leave your tributes in the comments section