Chad Townsend thanks the fans. NRL Rugby League, Warriors v Titans, CBus Super Stadium, Gold Coast, Australia, Saturday 20 June 2015. Copyright photo: Jason O'Brien / www.photosport.nz

Townsend's tough off-field battle

By Corey Rosser, NZ Correspondent, NRL.com

Spend a couple of minutes watching or reading about rugby league this week and the word tough is bound to appear at least once.

The game and word are almost intrinsically linked.

Yet everyone who has ever uttered the word has a different perspective on its meaning. What is tough to me might not be tough to you.

That's why Chad Townsend looks forward to arriving at training every day, regardless of the punishment that awaits, because for him it's an outlet from a different kind of tough situation, one that doesn't end when the whistle blows.

"When I go to training that's probably the time when I get away from all the stuff at home and can just focus on training," Townsend tells NRL.com.

That "stuff at home" being the reality of living with a family member who has bowel cancer, a disease which more than 15,000 people in Australia, and 3,000 people in New Zealand, are diagnosed with every single year.

For the last three years Townsend's partner Marissa's mother, Gail, has been battling the cancer.

"I have seen first hand the effects that it has on a family and on her," Townsend says.

"To see Marissa when she is upset or crying because she has been on the phone to her mum and she is having to go back into hospital, it's definitely a tough time.

"It's a tough thing to go through, but being there to support Marissa and her family is the most important thing to me. She moved to NZ to support me throughout my career so being there for her is my absolute priority.

"Just being there and saying the right things, and being there for support is probably one of my main things to do while she goes through this battle.

"It hasn't changed me as a player, but as a person definitely." 

Speaking up in support of the NRL Kick Bowel Cancer campaign, Chad and Marissa are bravely making public some of the most intimate details of their private lives in the hope of helping others to avoid going through the same experience.

"If I could help someone to get checked or raise awareness about this subject, if it would make a difference to someone's life, that would mean a lot to me for sure," Townsend adds.

This year Cancer Australia projects that bowel cancer will become the second most common cancer diagnosed in the country, trailing only prostate in sheer numbers of new cases.

How many of those people die will depend greatly on early prevention numbers, with 75 per cent of cases being curable if caught early enough.

"It is important to get checked and it is a preventable form of cancer. It does affect both men and women equally, but if it's detected early on the chances of living a normal life definitely increase a lot," Townsend says.

"I just recommend people see their GP and get checked, that's a message I would like to get across for sure.

"If we can get one person checked and treated it's worth it."

Take the NRL Kick Bowel Cancer test

This article first appeared on NRL.com