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BRIS­BANE BRON­COS BOSS PAUL WHITE AND FAM­ILY FACE THEIR TOUGH­EST CHAL­LENGE

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRANCES WHIT­ING

Breathe. Breathe in and out of all of your sto­ries, the peo­ple gath­ered at your mother’s ta­ble, the kids kick­ing footies across dusty ovals, the in­ner-city al­ley­ways and coun­try lanes, your wife and your daugh­ters, five Christ­mas baubles strung across the dark­ness.

Breathe in ev­ery­thing that has led you here, to this ta­ble, with the mask moulded like a hand across your face, as the ra­dium be­gins its work, treat­ing the tu­mour that shad­ows your brain.

In and out of all those sto­ries, and all those play­ers in your life, ev­ery­one on your team now.

PAUL WHITE, 49, CHIEF EX­EC­U­TIVE OF­FI­CER

of the Bris­bane Bron­cos, would like the club’s fans to know he fights the good fight; to know that the seizure that shook him just be­fore the third match of this year’s State of Ori­gin – the one that saw Queens­land pum­mel NSW into 52 points to 6 sub­mis­sion – oc­curred as he was hav­ing a “par­tic­u­larly vig­or­ous dis­cus­sion” with Na­tional Rugby League ex­ec­u­tives over the Bron­cos po­ten­tially play­ing Thurs­day night football. Fans like their footy on Fri­day nights, and White, some­where up on the 11th floor of a glass tower in Bris­bane’s CBD on June 30, was on the phone to NRL head­quar­ters, and also on, he says, “the front foot”.

“A few of us had gone to a so­lic­i­tor’s of­fice in the city to do some club busi­ness, but I was in another room, tak­ing a se­ries of calls about [the Bron­cos] play­ing a cou­ple of Thurs­day nights,” White re­calls at his home in Bris­bane’s in­ner west. “It was what you might call an an­i­mated chat,” he says, grin­ning, “and I’m up for it, you know, I’m en­joy­ing it, to be hon­est, be­cause you’re not there for tea and scones; I’m go­ing into bat­tle for the club, and then … ” White strug­gles to find the right words to de­scribe the seizure, the way his whole body tight­ened, the way he thought he was most prob­a­bly hav­ing a mas­sive heart at­tack, the way the phone tum­bled from his hand. “Then I lost my­self,” he fin­ishes, sim­ply.

Bron­cos chair­man Dennis Watt found him in a “bit of bad way”. Tests later that day would show White had a low-grade, pri­mary tu­mour on his brain, one that would re­quire ra­dium, chemo­ther­apy, and another kind of bat­tle al­to­gether – one that he is also cer­tainly up for. As Watt notes: “Paul pos­sesses a par­tic­u­larly strong de­ter­mi­na­tion [“stub­born bas­tard”, White’s wife, An­gela, later trans­lates] – when the am­bu­lance ar­rived, he re­fused to get into a wheel­chair or stretcher. He said, ‘No way mate, I’m walk­ing out of here’, and so he did, down the el­e­va­tor and across Ea­gle Street to the am­bu­lance, hang­ing on to my arm for sup­port.”

Watt was happy to give it. Be­cause from the Bron­cos chair­man to cap­tain Justin Hodges, who drives White to some of his ra­dium treat­ments, to hooker An­drew McCullough who goes “walk­ing with Whitey” one morn­ing a week, to the play­ers, friends and col­leagues who send texts and leave din­ners on the doorstep of the fam­ily home, there’s a snaking queue of peo­ple want­ing to bring some­thing to the ta­ble for the man who wel­comes ev­ery­one to his own.

Ask McCullough, and Bron­cos half­back Ben Hunt, who met White in June 2011, not long af­ter his ar­rival at the club, not long af­ter both were charged with public nui­sance af­ter a some­what ex­u­ber­ant night in Bris­bane’s CBD. Both then 21, and shak­ing in their footy boots, they ex­pected to be bawled out by their new boss; in­stead, he asked them to din­ner.

“They turn up at my house,” White re­calls. “They both look a mil­lion bucks, smell great too, and I said, ‘You prob­a­bly won’t need to look so flash where we’re

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