To help Melanoma New Zealand raise awareness, our Founding Patron, Lynn Stratford, generously sponsored the opportunity to have all of this season’s Mainland Tactix netball home games feature ball deliverers with a family connection to melanoma.
The first to be honoured was the Mainland Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek’s father, John Delaney. Marianne’s two sons, Zac (13) and Sam (11), carried the ball out onto the court to start the Tactix home games in memory of their grandfather.
Marianne had led her team to a 55-49 win over the Stars at the start of their ANZ Premiership season, and she wished her dad, John, could have seen it. He passed away in October last year after living for 13 years with skin cancer.
A sports coach himself, Delaney would call his daughter after every netball match and give her advice – mainly things to work on, even after a win.
Delaney, a police officer, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma – a form of skin cancer – in 2009 after discovering a tumour above his ear. He had a 14-hour operation to remove his ear and inner ear. A significant portion of tissue and skin was also excised, leaving a large gap on the side of his head.
“At the time, they said they couldn’t get all the cancer and only gave him three to six months to live,” recalls Delaney-Hoshek. Her son, Zac, was just months old at the time.
But her dad managed to beat the odds and watch Delaney-Hoshek’s two sons grow and start playing sports themselves.
“We’ve been so lucky, so grateful that we’ve had all that time with him,” Delaney-Hoshek says.
“My two boys had a relationship with him. Even though it is obviously a sad story, there’s some great parts to it as well.”
“My boys had that special relationship with Dad around rugby. He would ring them after all their sports and they would report in,” says Delaney-Hoshek.
The boys called their grandad ‘JD’ and loved his sense of humour, picking up phrases and words from him to use in their sports. John and his wife, Anne, would often look after Zac and Sam while Delaney-Hoshek was busy with netball; Anne also looked after John as his cancer progressed.
“She was crucial to him in terms of pretty much being his extra nurse for all those years as well. It was a pretty tough job, but she did amazing,” Delaney-Hoshek says of her mum.
Around two years ago, Delaney was diagnosed with melanoma during a routine skin check. A tumour on his neck spread to his liver, and he passed away in hospice care on October 5.
Following Zac and Sam’s on-court appearance, subsequent games have featured 10-year-old Emily and her sister Madeline (8), who went out for the Tactix vs Pulse game. The girls’ parents are both qualified radiation therapists, and their mum Gill is involved in clinical trials for melanoma treatment. When the Tactix played the Magic, Georgie (12) and Annabel (10) Magrath delivered the ball in honour of their grandmother, former Silver Fern and Canterbury player Sandra Richards, who sadly died from melanoma in 2005. Although the girls never met Sandra, they know all about her and have followed her by playing netball since they were seven years old and have been to several Tactix games.
Five-year-old Ruby Hudson-Craig was the youngest of our ball deliverers and bravely stepped out on the court by herself to represent her mother, Victoria Hudson-Craig, who has stage four melanoma.
At the Tactix vs Stars game, Kingston and Savannah Boyd went out in honour of their dad Jeremy and uncle, both of whom have had melanoma. Jeremy also supported Melanoma New Zealand when we travelled to the South Island last year. He collected our nurse from the airport and looked after the Melanoma Spot Check Van between events.
Lynn Stratford’s 11-year-old granddaughter Alice Johnston, whom Lynn also coaches, delivered the ball when the team played the Mystics. Lynn’s daughter and Alice’s mum, Amanda, has had melanoma and is a Melanoma New Zealand Trustee.
For the final home game of the season, our nurse Sue Bibby’s daughter Coco proudly took the ball out on behalf of the Melanoma New Zealand team.
“We are so grateful to Lynn and to the Mainland Tactix for providing this opportunity – not only providing memorable experiences for special young people who have a family connection to melanoma but also enabling us to share lifesaving messages with the vast netball community,” says Melanoma New Zealand Chief Executive, Andrea Newland.
- Parts of this story were originally published in LockerRoom and are republished with permission.