Celebrating Johnny Mannah
Thursday 4 April 2013 7:00 PM
It's clear Johnny Mannah was an extraordinary man.
For a NRL prop who only played 24 games in first grade before his life was cut short by cancer, Johnny touched many people's lives.
His legacy will be honoured this Saturday night, when the Pirtek Parramatta Eels and Cronulla Sharks compete for the Johnny Mannah Cup.
"To think that my little brother, who never really played a whole lot of NRL, could leave an impact as big as he has and to be afforded this type of honour, it's something so special for the family," Parramatta Eels club captain Tim Mannah said.
Tim and Johnny always had a close bond - which was to be boosted after Johnny signed with the Eels to play alongside his older brother.
But it wasn't to be – with Jon losing his battle with Hodgkins lymphoma in January at the age of just 22.
Tim says every new day makes it easier to cope with losing a loved one, but some moments are harder to face than others.
"The longer time goes on, there are definitely times that I miss him," Tim said.
"Having his name tossed up a bit makes you realise how much you miss him. There are things that we shared, like jokes, that nobody else would laugh at except us two."
Johnny's former captain at Cronulla, Paul Gallen, says he's never known anyone as tough - especially during his chemotherapy in 2009.
"He was sick, sore and instead of feeling sorry for himself he'd turn up to training at Cronulla with a smile from ear to ear," Gallen said.
"It was because he loved the game. He loved being around his teammates and just enjoying the opportunity that life had presented him. That's inspiration right there."
More than 50 members of the extended Mannah family will be present at Saturday night's game at Parramatta Stadium, as well as 15 nurses who cared for Johnny in hospital during his illness.
"It's so great that they can be there with my family," Tim Mannah said.
"They were very close to my mum, and Johnny was a favourite in the ward.
"They made a tough time more bearable for Johnny and my family."
The match has been garnering plenty of support online, with Johnny's story touching many people in the extended rugby league community.
Tim says the support from all around the rugby league community has been incredible.
"It's been a pretty special couple of months and I'm just so grateful that with the Johnny Mannah Cup, his legacy can live on."
If you'd like to send through a message or be part of the day, even if you can't be at Parramatta Stadium, you can send it to us on Twitter using the hashtag #celebratejohnny