The courageous little boy inspiring Benji’s troops
September 21, 2010
Five-year-old Lleyton Giles’s battle is a reminder of what’s truly important, writes Glenn Jackson.
Six months of a rugby league season is put into perspective when you compare it with six months of a child’s life. Suddenly, even the importance of winning a premiership somehow doesn’t compare with giving a five-year-old half a year of precious breath.
Wests Tigers players cried yesterday when Wes Giles, the father of five-year-old Lleyton - the youngster who may not be around the next time there is a grand final after this year, let alone the next time the Tigers appear in one - told them the effect they have had on their son.
In a meeting room in the grandstand of Concord Oval, Wes asked coach Tim Sheens whether he could address the players before their training session.
The coach obliged, only warning him that they would be unlikely to stem the flow of tears for the boy, who has become the mascot of their finals push.
‘‘I told them six weeks ago we were told that he’s got 12 or 18 months to live,’’ Wes said. ''If what the Tigers have done for him haven’t given him six months extra … I’m no doctor, but he’s just a different kid. I just wanted to let them know how special they’ve been.
''Some of the boys have said, ‘you don’t realise how much inspiration we’re pulling out of him’, but I don’t think they realise how much he’s pulling out of them. I just told them, no matter what happens on Saturday night, the Tigers are winners in our eyes. We owe them a lot.
‘‘It’s always about them - ‘he’s inspiring us’. Well, they’re inspiring him. His condition’s always going to be the way it is, but he looks alive. I’d like to bet the Tigers have whacked on an extra six months on his life. How do I repay the Tigers for that? I can’t.’’
A title might just suffice. While Lleyton has been inspired by the team, the feeling is mutual. When the Tigers have defended their line in recent matches, or have been short of breath and short of the ball, they have called out his name.
‘‘That’s emotional for me, as his dad,’’ Wes said. ‘‘It’s when they’re doing it tough and they’re 10 metres out, they yell out my young bloke’s name, and it just gives them that extra … we’re not doing as tough as my young bloke.’’
Few are really. Lleyton has battled short-gut syndrome for most of his five years. He has spent four of them in hospital, his father estimates, enduring 30 operations. He cannot store what he eats and his ostomy pouch is emptied up to 40 times a day.
Because he cannot put on weight, he is given a man-made nutritional formula that keeps him alive now but will one day kill him. Over time, his liver will fail. He cannot have a transplant - and he cannot be cured.
‘‘It’s a matter of when the liver gives in, that’s the end of his time,’’ Wes said.
But he is a fighter and always has been. Born at 26 weeks, a twin brother to Connor, he weighed 500 grams and has had perennial bowel problems.
He was named after Lleyton Hewitt because of the tennis star’s fighting qualities and he has shown them; his colour is better and he wakes up talking football.
‘‘He wakes up: ‘Dad, who are we playing? Is Benji playing? Is ‘‘Heighno’’ playing this week. Is Ryce Gibbs?’ - he calls him Ryce because he can’t say Bryce,’’ Wes said.
The morning after the win over Canberra, which handed the Tigers a preliminary final against St George Illawarra, Wes received a call from Marshall, just to ask whether Lleyton enjoyed the game. The five-eighth has been touched by Lleyton’s fight as he has by his team’s apparent gift of life, albeit six precious months of it.
‘‘There were a few teary eyes in the room [yesterday],’’ Marshall said. ‘‘He’s a real inspiration for me and I think about him before every game to put things in perspective. When his dad said that we added six months to Lleyton’s life, it was pretty emotional, when really he has done more for us than we have for him.’’
What a fantastic story. I hope the Tigers win the grand final and take Lleyton on the victory lap. That would be a brilliant sight to see.
Mate how good would that be,the feeling the young fella would get would be priceless,not to mention the added bonus of the players feeling they have given him something.
Ever since that magical day at Campbelltown when Benji hoisted Lleyton on his shoulders after the game…Benji Marshall changed…Matured in that instant…
Struck me at the last home game when Lleyton was struggling with all the hoopla going on on the sideline…photo’s enlarged cheques etc buried in his dad’s shoulder…until Benji came along after the warm up that is…
The emotional lift Wests Tigers get from Lleyton is immeasurable…PRICELESS…
Well done Wests Tigers…keep your chin up Lleyton.
So touching that the dad believes the teams fortunes of late has added time to his sons life.
Poor little bugger.
Good on everyone associated with the club for these happenings. Proud to be a member.
p.s. just on the GF victory lap, that will be incredible…. a whole stadium bawling their eyes out!