Bill Arthur applauds Leeds Rhinos for the compassion they showed to a terminally-ill fan.
Last Updated: 15/10/09 12:53pm
The build up to the Grand Final is an intense period for the competing clubs, especially when you're defending your title and looking to make it a record three wins in a row.
There's little time for outside distractions. Media commitments are fulfilled, awards evenings are attended but gradually the shutters come down and the drawbridge is pulled up.
So all credit to the Leeds Rhinos for making the time, in the middle of their Grand Final preparations, to bring a bit of happiness to one of their supporters who is fighting a battle of her own.
Sara Gregson is a 31-year-old mother of four who has been a Leeds supporter since the days when Dougie Laughton coached the side in the early 1990s.
In March this year Sara broke her leg in a fall and, while undergoing surgery to repair the break, it was discovered that she had bone cancer, which had spread from the breast.
She has been having treatment for the illness since then, no longer able to get to Headingley to watch her favourite team, and confined to home where she watches Leeds in action on television.
In the last few weeks her condition has deteriorated and a scan revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain. Sara and her family were told she had six months to live.
Knowing her devotion to the team, a friend of the Gregsons contacted the Rhinos and asked if she could visit the training ground and meet a few of the players.
But when Sara and Mark, her husband, got to the club's Kirkstall training base they were welcomed by the entire team and by the coach Brian McClennan. They chatted to her, posed for photos and presented her with a signed shirt and rugby ball while the children Ellie, Bethany, Tamie and Nathaniel were all given gifts too.
In an email to Boots 'n All, Mark Gregson summed it up like this: "Sara never stopped smiling all the time she was there and she's still talking about it now. I would like you to thank all the players and staff of the Leeds Rhinos for making Sara the happiest person alive."
Sara was even happier when the Willow Foundation, a charity that aims to brighten the lives of the seriously ill, arranged for her to go to Old Trafford and watch the Rhinos complete their treble last weekend.
Mark Gregson says he was stunned by the compassion and generosity shown by the Leeds players, especially at a time when they were preparing for their biggest game of the season.
But maybe he shouldn't be surprised because rugby league clubs and players - not just at Leeds but across the game - still seem to have a sense of perspective and to be in touch with the real world.
A world where people like Sara Gregson and her young family are facing challenges that are much, much tougher than anything the Grand Final could ever possibly offer.