In a powerful display of solidarity, the rugby league community has rallied behind Wally Lewis after the sporting legend bravely revealed his battle with a neurodegenerative condition.
In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, Lewis shared his diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has caused trouble with short-term memory loss for the sporting legend.
During one of his first appointments with his doctor, Lewis was faced with the harsh reality that his mind was starting to fade.
“She asked to repeat simple things – I think she gave me five things, and it might have been something like bus, dog, truck, camera, chair. And she said, ‘Remember those.’ And went over them two or three times,” Lewis said.
“A minute later she said, ‘What are the things I asked you to remember?’ And I got two of them. And then sometime later, after that, she said, ‘Do you remember what they were?’ And I think I said ‘bus’.
“Pride’s a wonderful thing, but there wasn’t much of it around then.”
— 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) July 30, 2023
In the face of Lewis’ heart-wrenching news, the rugby league community came together in a show of support for their hero.
Queensland Rugby League CEO Ben Ikin recently told The Courier Mail that he “was shocked by Wally‘s situation”.
“While it’s very sad for him, I have no doubt that all that toughness and courage he showed as a player he will take on with his latest battle,” Ikin told the publication.
“The QRL, the FOGS (Former Origin Greats organisation) and the family of rugby league will be queuing up to ensure that Wally realises we are here to support him.
“That’s less from an organisational perspective and more on a personal level.
“Wally has such strong and deep relationships across the game here in Queensland and, absolutely, if the QRL can find a way to do something to support him, tell his story or raise awareness, then we are all in.”
Broncos coach Kevin Walters also reflected on Lewis’ diagnosis while encouraging those close to the 63-year-old to “get around and support him”.
“He was always great to me Wally, in Queensland teams and the Broncos,” Walters told The Courier Mail.
“I guess it goes to show we are all not invincible and I think he said that on the show. But it is a sport we all love playing as well. He would not swap anything for what he has achieved in the game and in life so we just have to get around him and support him.
“I am shocked by it but I can also see how back in that era it was considered tough to stay on the field. That has all changed and rightly so. It is smart to go off now and look after yourself.
“All the clubs, the NRL, the NRLW and the clubs under that are all working in the same direction to make sure the health and safety of the players in at the forefront.”
Lewis represented Queensland in thirty-one State of Origin games from 1980 to 1991, and was captain for thirty of them.
He also represented Australia in thirty-three international matches from 1981 to 1991 and was the national team captain from 1984 to 1989.
Lewis played a major role in Queensland’s success in the State of Origin series throughout the 1980s, winning the Man of the Match a record 8 times.
In recognition of his stellar sporting career, Lewis was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1987 and became the sixth member of The Immortals in 1999. In 2000, he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia’s international standing in the sport of rugby league.