Donna Boyd stood inside the Manly dressing room at Allianz Stadium after the season ending loss last Saturday night with a smile as wide as Sydney heads.
And in doing so, she managed to lift the spirits of an NRL team hurting badly following the controversial defeat to Penrith.
For the hurt around her was insignificant to the pain this passionate Sea Eagles fan from Taree has experienced.
Nick-named ‘Princess Eagle’, Donna was diagnosed in 2013 with terminal metastatic breast cancer.
In her own words, ‘her world had changed forever’.
“My prognosis wasn't great and a lot of tears were shed,’’ Donna recalled.
“One day I realised that if I wanted to stay here to see my daughter marry, and my grand baby be born, then I would have to help myself and not just rely on the incredible medical team I have to do it all for me.’’
Knowing what the Sea Eagles meant to Donna, her friend, Donna Atkins, contacted her childhood friend, Sydney Morning Herald chief sports writer Andrew Webster, to see if he could arrange a few tickets to the game.
A few calls were made for Donna and her family to attend the match. Upon arriving at Allianz Stadium, SCG Trust’s communications general manager, Phillips Heads, opened a special account for them to watch and enjoy the game from a suite.
“This was all from a man we had never met,’’ Donna said.
“By this time, I was already thinking how lucky I was, but then I was taken to the Manly dressing room where Sea Eagles football manager, Gareth Holmes, met me for a meet and greet with the players.
“I have to tell you for the first time ever, I had no words. I just couldn't believe that I, a mere fan, was receiving such an honour,'' Donna said.
“Many of the players came out to meet me, sign my jersey, and were just happy to chat with not only myself, but my family as well. They were kind, humble, understanding, and even apologetic about the loss.
“They were so down to earth and all-round great humans.”
Following a series of photos and autographs, Donna thought her visit was over, but there was one last surprise.
Having heard of what Donna had been through, winger Akuila Uate, without hesitation, quickly grabbed his match jersey.
He walked over to Donna, embraced her, and then signed the jersey for her as a keepsake.
“I just want the fans to know that the Sea Eagles players are truly generous, humble, great blokes,’’ Donna said.
“You always hear of the bad that players do. It is rare that we get to hear about the selfless, generous, and caring things that are done by these same people.
“I am certainly one overjoyed Manly fan.”