A line of young men wearing AFL attire on an AFL oval

‘True show of mateship’ as family, friends rally for promising young footballer diagnosed with cancer

When Broken Hill man Adam Slattery presented to Broken Hill hospital last month with a bad cough, the course of his life changed forever.

Key points:

20-year-old Adam Slattery was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia in mid-November
His hometown of Broken Hill has rallied around him and his family
20 people have shaved their heads with him in support

The 20-year-old was initially believed to be suffering from pneumonia, with doctors advising his family to keep him overnight for observation.

But the next day he was flown to Adelaide and admitted to the ICU unable to breathe.

Adam was later diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia T Cell, with advice to start immediate chemotherapy treatment.

“It’s one of the worst things you could hear, it was devastating, really,” Adam’s 21-year-old older brother Aiden recalled.

Older brother Aiden says it’s been a difficult few weeks for the family.(ABC Broken Hill: Oliver Brown)

Adam’s mother and one sibling are now in Adelaide mostly full-time, while Aiden, his father and other siblings are regularly commuting to and from Broken Hill.

“It’s affected all of us, but we’re coping with it [and] we’re doing it for Adam,” he said.

It was an earth-shattering moment for the young man, a highly active local footballer who only a couple of years prior was playing in Sydney as part of the GWS Giants Academy before electing to return to the Silver City in 2021 for personal reasons.

GWS Giants Western Talent Manager Anthony Tidbull said he respected Adam’s decision, although he had no doubt Adam’s ability would have put him in the sights of professional football clubs.

“AFL clubs were extremely interested in him and how much work and effort he put in, and his talent [was] at that level,” Mr Tidbull said.

A line of young men wearing AFL attire on an AFL oval

Adam (right) played for the GWS Giants Academy from the age of 13 to 19.(Supplied: Slattery family)

“He definitely had the potential to roll back into high level football if he wanted to.”

Treatment progressing

After completing four rounds of chemotherapy, Adam was released from hospital last week, having lost 17 kilograms, and will now spend Christmas with family under careful isolation in Adelaide.

In a statement, the Slattery family said he is resting and preparing for a second month-long treatment plan, including regular visits to hospital.

“[Adam] has been told to expect a six-month stay in Adelaide for the initial rounds of treatment,” they said.

A young man in a hospital gown and drip with a smiling woman wearing glasses

Adam with his mother, Chrissy.(Supplied: Slattery family)

“It is likely ongoing treatment will be required over the next two years.

“He is very thankful for the many people that have reached out via text, messenger and visited him over the past month. It really does make a difference.”

‘A true show of mateship’

Beyond traditional methods of support and encouragement, several friends and family members have taken one step further to show they stand beside him.

Brother Aidan and six friends, who had travelled down to see Adam a couple of weekends ago, joined him in having their heads shaved.

Adam and his friends after shaving their heads.

Adam, Aiden and their friends before shaving their heads.

Adam, Aiden and their friends before shaving their heads. / Adam and his friends after shaving their heads.

“[Adam] was giving us different little haircuts. The smile on his face when he was shaving [our] heads was just unbelievable, you couldn’t take it off his face,” Aidan said.

“It just felt like everything was back to normal [and] we just were able to forget completely about everything that’s going on right now,” friend Tasman McAllister added.

“It was great for all of us to be able to do that together.”

A young man wearing a basketball outfit with a shaved head shaving the head of another young man sitting

Tasman McAllister (sitting) having his head shaved by Adam.(Supplied: Slattery family)

A further 13 family members and friends have also since shaved their heads in a show of support and encouragement.

Another childhood friend Ty Parker said it was great to be a part of the effort, but made it clear the support does not stop there.

“It’s not just [shaving] your head and that’s it, you gotta be there the whole time,” he said.

The Slattery family has made it clear no money was involved or requested as part of the shave and expressed their gratitude for the support shown to Adam.

“It went far further than we ever imagined and turned into true show of mateship that will live with us forever,” they said.

A group of young men and one older man with shaved heads standing in a cluster with their arms crossed

Adam’s friends and family — minus their hair.(ABC Broken Hill: Oliver Brown )

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Author: Russell White