THE rugby league world is mourning the death today of Matt Callander after a long struggle with brain cancer.
Callander, the former Channel 9 boss of NRL, was the man behind the Beanies for Brain Cancer round this year which raised almost $2 million.
He was the son of racing legend Kenny Callander.
The 46-year-old won the admiration of players, fans and all involved in rugby league for his brave fight to beat the hideous disease over the last two years.
Callander, a father of four, underwent several rounds of surgery as he courageously and publicly fought the disease while setting up the Beanies for Brain Cancer events in round 11.
“Whatever happens we have raised the awareness of brain cancer and the need for more research,” Callander told The Daily Telegraph earlier this year.
Callander’s efforts saw half a million beanies sold at NRL matches across round 11 in May, with all funds raised going towards the Mark Hughes Foundation.
Hughes – himself a big name in league circles from his years with the Knights – established the foundation after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013.
Fox Sports NRL commentator Andrew Voss paid tribute to Callander.
“Life is so cruel. Rest in peace Matt Callander. Great bloke. Great family. Great mate to so many,” Voss said.
Nine’s sport director Tom Malone told Wide World of Sports Callander had been an integral part of the television network for 20 years.
“Matt was a huge influence at Nine in both our NRL coverage and The Footy Show over the past two decades,” Malone said.
“He was loved by all for his quiet understated approach and his terrific way of dealing with producers, talent, production staff – everyone.”
Broadcaster Ray Hadley also joined those paying tributes.
“Matthew bravely fought as hard as anyone could fight,” Hadley said on 2GB this morning.
“I was fortunate enough to work with Matt Callander at Channel nine for a number of years and we of course supported through the course of the year attempts to raise as much money for research into brain cancer.
“I guess words are cheap but this was an outstanding man [and] he will be sadly missed by his wife and four children, by his brothers, by his mum and by his dad.”
Callander is survived by his wife Anne and four children.
The Footy Show personality Darryl Brohman worked with Callander for years at Nine.
“Terribly sad news. He fought the fight right to the end. Condolences to the Callander family,” Brohman said.