Wollongong molecular biologist Dr Justin Yerbury visited his Illawarra Hawks “family” for a presentation to the club’s new players on Sunday.
Dr Yerbury has dedicated his career to finding a cure for motor neurone disease – and is currently facing his own battle with the degenerative disorder.
Dr Yerbury, 44, from the Illawarra Health and Medical Rersearch Institute, lost his mother Pauline, sister Sarah and other relatives to the disease. He continues to work despite his diagnosis more than two years ago.
That family history spurred the Wollongong man to give up his pro-basketball career with the Hawks, and delve into the field of molecular biology to dedicate his career to unlocking the key to MND.
Prior to Sunday’s trial game against the Sydney Kings at WIN Entertainment Centre, Dr Yerbury, with the assistance of daughters Talia, 22, and Maddison, 20, presented the Hawks’ several new recruits with their playing jerseys.
Now unable to speak, Dr Yerbury communicates via voice software co-ordinated by eye-gaze on his laptop.
“It is a privilege to be here to see you guys put on the uniform for the first time today,” he told the players.
“Every time you wear this uniform, do it with pride, seize every precious moment, take nothing for granted.”
Cedric Jackson, Jordair Jett, Brian Conklin and Emmett Naar were among the new players part of the presentation in the Hawks’ change-rooms.
Dr Yerbury’s wife Rachel said her husband still took a keen interest in the Hawks, and knew he was “still part of the Hawks family and community”.