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Stars line up to sing praises of 'inspirational' Mannah at funeral

Date

Dominic Bossi

Farewell ... Tim Mannah, right, talks to fellow mourners at his brother Jon's funeral in Auburn on Monday.

Farewell ... Tim Mannah, right, talks to fellow mourners at his brother Jon's funeral in Auburn on Monday. Photo: Dean Sewell

A GENTLE giant, a strong character and an all-round good guy was how former Parramatta and Cronulla prop Jon Mannah was remembered by family, friends and the rugby league fraternity.

A host of NRL stars were among the estimated 3000 mourners who farewelled Mannah at a funeral service at Faith Baptist Church in Auburn on Monday.

It was not just the players and coaches from his two former clubs who paid their respects to Mannah, but also opponents who spoke about how inspired they were by his strength of character.

Jon Mannah warming up for his return game for Cronulla against Balmain Ryde. Click for more photos

RIP Jon Mannah

The rugby league world mourns the passing of Jon Mannah. Photo: Anthony Johnson

The Sydney Roosters' newest recruit Michael Jennings and the Wests Tigers pair of Robbie Farah and Braith Anasta never played alongside Mannah but were among the ambassadors of the game who paid their respects to a man that inspired so many.

''It's given me a different outlook on life,'' Anasta said. ''I'm glad I'm here because I'm a better person for it. Anyone who went through what he did is inspirational.''

The 24-game NRL career of Mannah, 23, was cut short after the prop lost his 3½ year battle against Hodgkin's lymphoma on Friday morning. His brother Tim, who plays for Parramatta and has represented NSW at State of Origin level, spoke bravely at the ceremony and called on mourners to celebrate Jon's life rather than dwell on the tragedy of his passing.

Farah said Mannah's courage left a lasting legacy on the sport.

''Everyone knows what kind of person Johnny was and he will be sorely missed,'' he said. He had a great impact on many people's lives and it showed with the turnout here.''

His previous club, Parramatta, released a video tribute to the life of the young prop.

Mannah's former teammates joined in the celebration of his short but successful life. ''Truly amazing service today celebrating the life of @JohnnyMannah good to reminisce with the Mannah family and friends,'' Jarryd Hayne tweeted.

Many of his former Cronulla teammates found it too difficult to talk after the emotional service.

Ben Pomeroy struggled for words to describe the generosity and kind nature of Mannah and said he would sorely miss his friend. ''He was just a great guy. He would do anything for you and we'd do anything for him. I don't know what to say,'' Pomeroy said.

Sharks' Wade Graham was, at various times, an opponent or teammate of Mannah as he grew up playing representative football with him at youth level. They spent a season together at Toyota Stadium in 2011 where Mannah left a lasting impression.

''I met Jon when we were young … I met him through the schoolboys system and then I met him on a personal level at Cronulla.

''Jon is the best bloke, he's genuine, honest and a very humble sort of guy and you can see by how many people are here the kind of bloke he was. He touched everyone, he's a real genuine bloke.''

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