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Tributes flow for NRL tough-man Jon Mannah

21:07 Fri Jan 18 2013
AAP

Jon Mannah's tragic battle with cancer allowed him just 24 NRL matches but, in an oft-described gladiatorial sport where bravery can be exaggerated, he stands tall as a genuine tough man.

Mannah died aged 23 on Friday morning at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney with his family by his side.

He lost his long fight against Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Of course in such circumstances, rugby league becomes insignificant.

But the courageous fight Mannah showed throughout his brief but significant career, is a story of true inspiration.

Mannah made his NRL debut for Cronulla as a 19-year-old in 2009, playing 12 matches.

The future looked bright for Mannah, just as it did for his brother Tim who had broken into first grade that year for Parramatta.

However by round 20 of that season, Jon was diagnosed with cancer.

The younger of the two brothers underwent all the rigours of chemotherapy.

Still, in 2011, Mannah defied the odds to once again break into the NRL and play a further 12 matches for the Sharks.

Last season he returned to his junior club the Eels in the hope he could fulfil his dream of playing alongside his brother in the NRL.

Unfortunately he had a relapse in March last year.

He fought on but, by the time pre-season training rolled around for the coming season, he was no longer able to train.

Tim Mannah, a NSW Origin forward who is considered a future Parramatta captain, paid tribute to the toughness of his brother and the inspiration he provided.

"Everyone who knows him is aware of how strong Johnny was," his brother told Fairfax Media.

"Even me, he never stopped surprising me with how tough he was. Obviously on the footy side of things you had to be tough to do what he did, and to see how hard he trained at Parramatta for three months with really bad cancer ... he pretty much had a hole in his intestines ... and to see how well he trained spun me out.

"Over the last two weeks he was in a ridiculous amount of pain and he never showed it; he'd never tell people.

"The medical staff were freaking out because they said on paper he should be in a lot worse state than he is but he was coping so well.

"There aren't many 23-year-old people who achieved what he did in life. He played in the front row for first grade at 19 and to get cancer, to get through it and to play NRL again was a phenomenal thing."

Parramatta chairman Roy Spagnolo said the club's thoughts were with the Mannah family.

"He was a well-loved person who got on with everyone and unfortunately life sometimes takes some tragic twists. It's just so tragic that he lost his life so early," Spagnolo told AAP.

Tributes flooded in from across the game, with his captain at Cronulla Paul Gallen describing Mannah as a "gentleman."