I'll never forget the day my coach brought me home after a severe head clash during an under 15's training session, my New York Giants t-shirt was covered in blood and as I stepped out of the car I smiled at my Mum who burst into tears. The effects of what happened that evening would be felt later this year when I visited a consultant to quote a price to fix my jaw and teeth. I'll be saving my pennies for a while yet.
My Mum hated me playing Rugby League, she didn't like the brutality and the thought of someone hurting her son meant she watched me play just once in the hundreds of games I played as a junior. "Of course I didn't start it" would probably be a good title for a fairytale told in the Dolan household every weekend as I was growing up, even more so when my younger brother Richie began to play when he turned 14. I can't imagine it was a pleasant sight for her to watch me come back every Sunday, later on Saturday's and for a time both days, with knocks bruises and cuts. To hear of people breaking limbs or abandoned games due to fighting. Traipsing muddy kit all over the living room carpet probably seemed like a welcomed relief as I was back safe.
I first mentioned about travelling across Australia in 2012, I've tended to run everything passed my Mum and Dad to gauge a response, if it didn't factor the response I required then it was argument time. 4 years of arguments have ensued. I had to get them onside, I had to make my parents believe what I was doing was a good thing, the Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity was chosen, whose books I was completely obsessed with growing up and read to me by my folks at bedtimes.
Other aspects were slowly being put into place and a trip to Australia was booked coinciding with a friend’s wedding. This was to meet the Rugby League World Cup, an expensive face to face but one that needed to happen. Meetings would be planned for a clothing sponsor and I could get a mega training plan sorted at the old gym I trained at during my year over there in 2014, make every day count whilst we were so far away from home.
Just a fortnight before Miriam and I were due to fly to Sydney, I got a call from a reporter at the York Press for an interview; this appeared on the site and in the paper and an obvious turning point in perception for my Mum, a great relief for me. It was now onto Australia and our grand plans for 2017.
After 30+ hours of travelling we had made it to Coffs Harbour to be greeted by Richie, Carla and Hudson (younger brother, sister in-law, nephew) a short drive to Sawtell, where I'm factoring in a stop over during The Longest Try.
In the early hours of Friday morning 9th December we received a phone call from my Dad that Mum had collapsed at work and was unconscious, we would have to wait another few hours to know what exactly the diagnosis was, later that morning we received the news Mum's stroke was fatal.
We arrived in Sydney later that day and on the evening Dad called saying Mum had passed away.
It's strange being in a city that has brought so many happy memories, friends and experiences yet you don't want to be there, meetings went ahead as planned and we met on the Monday with 3 of the RLWC organisation. After a short discussion, the reality was, we have to do more, a schedule, dates, and places an exact event plan of our journey. Until then, we can't make anything happen on an official basis. Later on in the day we went to see Canterbury for a clothing sponsor, without too much convincing they've agreed to become our partners for this year.
The Longest Try was born through family, I've never been happy in accepting seeing my brothers and their families once every couple of years for a fortnight, although it's entirely their choice on where they live I was unhappy with my close family not spending a good amount of time together. If I could do something stupid or out of the ordinary, a walk or trek across Australia, surely that would be good enough for everyone to be together or participate in?
I know my Mum won't see the consequences of what The Longest Try will produce, I don't even know myself but I'm determined to make this happen even if I have to put everything I have into completing what was just an idea over 5 years ago.
I've a month to pour over maps and get something tangible for the Rugby League World Cup team to look at. Fundraising for the charities and sponsorships to make The Longest Try a team event. All this along with training to make myself an efficient runner.
Mum wanted me to be safe, she wanted a doctor to be close by so she knew if I was well enough to complete an ultra marathon a day. I will make this happen.
Lastly I'd like to thank all those over the last few weeks that have shown your support to our family that have reached out and helped us in this time.
On Monday I'll be doing my first ever VO2 max test courtesy of the Bedfordshire Fire Service. I'll be sure to tell you all the results.