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Magical night as brave kids relish Heartfelt Moments

The result may not have gone the Sharks' way, but last Thursday's NRL clash with the Dolphins at PointsBet Stadium was unforgettable for three inspiring youngsters and their families.

In two very special 'Heartfelt Moments', a pair of courageous kids fighting cancer led the team onto the field while an aspiring referee helped officiate junior games.

Organised regularly by Sharks Have Heart – the club's community department – with the support of Quest Apartment Hotels, Heartfelt Moments aim to lift the spirits of Sharks Members, supporters and those in the community facing adversity.

Local classmates Piper Eaton, eight, and Tom Wyse, nine, had the honour of running out of the tunnel prior to kick-off alongside Cronulla captain Cameron McInnes.

The children's families have formed an unbreakable bond after the duo were heartbreakingly diagnosed with cancer just weeks apart while in Year 1 at Laguna St Public School.

Piper, who has a low-grade brain tumour, underwent brain surgery at the end of 2022. Having been on chemo since March last year, her treatment is set to finish around September.

Tom was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of paediatric cancer, and couldn't attend school while enduring 15 months of chemo and radiation.

"To have the kids do something so memorable together is extra special!" Piper's mum Jaimee said of their experience at the Sharks game.

"Oncology kids miss out on so many 'everyday' things, so it's lovely to make it a bit special when it's possible. I asked Piper what she thought and she said, 'It was really exciting!'"

Tom's mum Mel added: "The kids had such a great time and so did we!

"Tom lost over a year and a half of his life in a constant cycle of treatment, recovery and isolation. We'll never completely be able to recover that loss of childhood for him, but memory-making experiences like these will certainly help."

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Martin Smith, who lives with disability due to a brain condition acquired at birth, was keenly involved as a touch judge in the junior rugby league games played before and at half-time of the NRL fixture.

Supported by his family, who were provided seats in the Quest Community Bay, Martin was kitted out with an official shirt, whistle and flag by the Cronulla JRL referees.

"He was very excited to be part of it," Martin's aunty Shareen said.

"When I introduced him to the other referees, he was like, 'Oh, yeah, I'm really part of it'. He had the gear on, which was really good because all the other referees had the same gear.

"Watching that (NRL) game – he only watches the referee; he doesn't watch the game itself – has inspired him. He now wants to be a referee, not just run the sidelines."

With a desire to create social impact and meaningful change, the Sharks are passionate about supporting the community that supports the club.

To get behind Sharks Have Heart's work, including a suite of health and education programs, CLICK HERE to make a tax-deductible donation to the foundation this end of financial year.

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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