Local league legends battle against blood cancer

Jul 11, 2023

CASSOWARY Coast’s biggest rivalry is set to reignite with a generous undertone as the region’s two rugby league clubs go head-to-head in a bid to boost stem cell donor numbers.

Joining the Innisfail Leprechauns and the Tully Tigers for a three-week campaign are Katter’s Australian Party MPs Bob Katter and Shane Knuth, who are calling on Far North residents to join Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry’s the Strength to Give initiative.

The Far North drive will include two stalls, one at the Innisfail Show on Friday, July 14 (from 9am) and a second at the Tully show on Friday, July 28 (from 9am) where prospective donors aged 18-35 can register and complete a cheek swab in just minutes.

“It’s a battle of the champions – the titans of the Cassowary Coast are stepping up,” Mr Katter said.

“I’ll have to spend my time being a ‘LEPITIGER’ – half Innisfail Leprechaun, half Tully Tiger.”

Mr Katter has been actively pushing to boost the registry’s numbers, pleading with the Federal Health Minister to allocate greater funds towards the ABMDR to increase its campaigning.

“It’s about time, Australia should be leading the world, yet we have one of the lowest donation registries.

“We’re starting with the two local rugby league teams here, and we’re hopeful of attracting some local youth at the shows, but it would be great to see this initiative take of around the country and all the footy clubs get involved.”

Mr Knuth he welcomed the support from the two local rugby league clubs.

“The Leps and Tigers have always had a long-standing rivalry however, it is great to see them unite to battle a greater cause – blood cancer,” Mr Knuth said.

“Their actions, in promoting and getting a quick swab, will help save and improve many lives.”

ABMDR chief executive Lisa Smith said she was thrilled to be part of the campaign which would potentially help alleviate some of the demand while the registry awaited funding.

“Mr Katter has been a tremendous friend to our registry and Australian patients searching for their matching stem cell donor,” Ms Smith said.

“Although we are still waiting on funds to be released that will let us recruit the number of donors we need, we – like Mr Katter and Mr Knuth – understand that our desperately ill patients can’t afford to wait any longer. This event showcases perfectly what we could do if given the opportunity and we thank the Cassowary Coast community for their support.”

Far North residents aged 18-35 are encouraged to visit the Strength to Give website to register, and use the code: teamleps or teamtigers, with the club-specific competition running from July 7 to July 28. However, prospective donors can also register at anytime outside these dates.  



There are currently over 110,000 Australians living with blood cancer in Australia, and on any given day it’s estimated the registry is managing around 100 Australian patients looking for their matching donor. Close to 6000 Australian’s die from blood cancer and blood disorders every year, many waiting for a match. 

More than 1000 Australians urgently need a stem cell donation, but the number of Australian stem cell donors has shrunk significantly over the last decade. ABMDR estimates we will need an additional 120,000+ donors to keep up with the current demand. 

About 80 percent of Australians living with blood cancer rely on overseas donors which can be costly and logistically difficult for patients and can come with additional risks for patients. 

Joining Australia’s register of volunteer stem cell donors is easy – simply register your details at and swab your cheeks using swabs available from the Strength to Give booth at the show, or delivered to your home. Then, if you are a match for a patient in need of a transplant, we will be in touch to guide you through the process. Donating stem cells is easier than you think – a few sitting hours in a chair for you, gives the patient the chance of a lifetime.