ST KILDA champion Nick Riewoldt took a stand next to young Ballarat fighter Blake Dridan to reiterate "it's not acceptable" for outcomes to still be so poor for bone marrow failure.
Blake launched important AFL fixture Maddie's Match alongside Riewoldt and Brisbane Lions great Jonathan Brown. Both former captains will lead a celebrity challenge ahead of the annual match between St Kilda and Richmond on June 30.
Riewoldt said his family was "extraordinarily naive" when his sister Maddie Riewoldt was diagnosed with aplastic anemia - the same condition as Blake - in 2010. Maddie died five years later, aged 26.
Maddie's Match is the fundraising and awareness-building clash to improve the diagnosis for other sufferers of the rare and fatal blood disorder in which the body's bone marrow does not make enough new blood cells.
"We're really determined to change the outcomes and eventually find a cure for people like Blake," Riewoldt said at Tuesday's launch.
You've been to hell and back, haven't you buddy? You're a really brave boy and we're really proud of you standing out here today.
Blake underwent a bone marrow transplant in March 2017 but his condition since has been a dramatic rollercoaster. He has no immune system, so even the seemingly simplest outings can turn dangerous fast.
Blake's dad Luke Dridan has previously described the condition to The Courier as a "hideous disease in that it torments" with doctors often treating symptoms with so much unknown about how the disease progresses.
Maddie Riewoldt's Vision has raised more than $7 million to fund 15 research projects since the foundation launched in 2015.
Nick Riewoldt said life-altering results had already been made with work in genomics but there was still a lot of work to do.
A long-time Richmond supporter, Blake swapped to a St Kilda guernsey for the match launch. Blake ran out through the Tigers' banner with the team in Maddie's Match last season.
Jonathan Brown lightly jabbed Riewoldt's goalkicking form but was prepared to put old rivalries aside to rally supporters to get involved.
Flanked by former captain of the Brisbane Lions Jonathan Brown, the pair put old rivalries aside to rally supporters to get involved.
"It's been inspirational to the whole footy community. Hopefully we raise plenty of cash and help young blokes like Blake and other people affected by this," Brown said.
- with The Age
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