November 2017 My Best Mate
4 / 6
“Mateship” is an Australian expression that stands for friendship and equality, even in times of great challenge. Mark Smith and Jarryd Haines, two young boys from Sydney, embody this ethos of close friendship. The pair have known each other for most of their lives and always enjoyed playing sport together. If there was a ball involved, they would be in the backyard, acting out a crucial Ashes test or taking a spectacular mark in the Australian Rules Grand Final for their beloved Sydney Swans.
A few years ago, when Mark was only nine, he was diagnosed with cancer of the brain and spine. It robbed the young boy of many things: his sight, part of his hearing and his ability to play the sports he loves. Throughout the gruelling medical treatment that left Mark nauseous and exhausted, Jarryd remained his close friend, sharing their continued love of sport, particularly the Sydney Swans.
Although Mark cannot see anymore, his passion for the Swans has not ebbed. Normally he listens to streamed radio commentary that complements the roar of the crowd. At the last regular game of the season on 26 August, unfortunately, in the second quarter of the match the stream died. Thankfully, his friend Jarryd was there to step in with his own unique brand of commentary. Play by play, Jarryd was bringing the game to life.
“What’s happening, mate?” Mark implored as Buddy Franklin, a towering colossus of a full forward who is considered one of the current greats in Aussie Rules, strutted around the 50-metre line looking for the ball, searching for his tenth goal. “Don’t worry Mark. I’ve got this,” replied Jarryd calmly. “OK. Buddy’s got it. He’s quite far out. Will he go for it? He’s going for it. It’s good and it’s his tenth goal! Buddy is on fire.”
When the Swans found out, Mark and Jarryd were given a hero’s welcome at the players’ entrance of the stadium for a training session. The players stood in a semi-circle before them and clapped loudly when they heard about their friendship. The boys were presented with jerseys and told that in the elimination final against Essendon on September 9, they would run out on to the pitch with the players before taking their seats with their families in a box that had been laid on by the club.