Amid heavy skies, showers of rain and the disappointment of a North Wagga loss, Josh Hanlon brought a ray of sunshine to a cold first day of spring at Maher Oval on Saturday.
Ignoring the weather to make good on a promise to watch his Saints teammates take on Marrar, Hanlon had a front row seat at the Farrer League second semi-final and provided a dose of inspiration for his family, friends and the Saints’ faithful.
It was his first outing after virtually the entire winter in hospital.
“Definitely, it’s good to get out for the day,” Hanlon said.
There was little chance of anyone stopping the 21-year-old once he set his mind to it.
“Yeah, very keen,” Hanlon admitted. “I couldn’t wait to get out and watch them play.”
Hanlon liked what he saw early, only for the Saints to be run down in the last quarter.
Still, North Wagga are every chance of getting another shot at Marrar in the grand final if they bring their best to Saturday’s preliminary final against Temora.
And maybe a touch of the ruckman’s determination.
Hanlon was admitted to intensive care on June 11, after he fell ill on the long weekend. He then had to fight for his life after his vital organs shut down following the spread of the common bacteria Strep A. Blood clots to his arms and legs in the process resulted in the amputation of his right hand and both lower legs.
Another operation on his organs in Sydney last month caused a new scare but Hanlon is positive about his recovery.
“I’m feeling real good now,” he said. “Back to health and I’ve just got to strengthen up and get into physio.”
Hanlon’s attitude has sparked plenty of admiration and his cause has brought out the best in generous football and farming communities across the region, from his home town of Weethalle, to a host of Farrer, Hume, Riverina and Northern Riverina League clubs.
Blown away by the response, he’s grateful for the support and thanked all who have contributed, including his old clubs Tullibigeal, Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong and North Wagga who’ve combined to organise a major fundraiser at McPherson Oval on AFL grand final day.
“It’s been unreal support from everyone involved,” he said.
“And the three clubs – this big day that they’ve put together sounds like it’s going to be unreal.”
- MORE INFORMATION: Josh ‘Chooka’ Hanlon Support and Fundraising Page