Updated: Monday, 11th December 2017 @ 2:23pm

Wigan Warriors legends join Bradley Wiggins in Dubai Sevens for fight against incurable diseases

Wigan Warriors legends join Bradley Wiggins in Dubai Sevens for fight against incurable diseases

By Michael Kelleher & Oliver Rhodes

A host of Rugby League legends have joined ex-Wigan Warrior Andy Johnson to play in the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens on behalf of his Joining Jack charity.

Jason Robinson, Sean Long and Martin Offiah, with Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins acting as ‘water boy’, will help raise awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) – a fatal muscle-wasting disease – from November 29.

Johnson and his family were left devastated after his four-year-old son Jack was diagnosed with DMD – he decided to set up the charity to help fund research into the terminal condition.

“You walk into a doctor’s one day thinking everything is okay and you get news that your son has an incurable disease,” Johnson said.

“He will lose the ability to use every muscle in his body and from then on ventilation will be a problem.

“As it stands, it would be an early death for Jack and as a father I cannot accept that.”

After he found out his boy was suffering from the tragic illness, Johnson revealed that he struggled to cope with the news and was an emotional wreck.

“Going back three or four months I was in a complete state and crying every day, but we have just got to stand up and fight this now,” he said.

“We set up the charity in May and we have had an enormous response from past players, the media, supporters, family and friends.

“The focus we have as a family allows me to stand here and talk with determination and hope for Jack.”

Rugby Union World Cup winner Robinson was quick to offer his support to long-time friend Johnson.

“I have known Andy for nearly 20 years and when I found about Jack and his condition, it was the least I could do,” Robinson said.

“The rugby league and Olympians like Bradley Wiggins have taken the charity to heart and it is just getting bigger and bigger.

“It is up to us to raise awareness and much-needed funds,” he added. “There is no cure at the moment and that is what we need to find.

“The fact that some of the best to ever play rugby league are turning out for Andy and his family is fantastic.”

In Dubai, an estimated 120,000 spectators will watch Robinson and his teammates in action.

Long, Offiah and fellow star Brian Carney shared Robinson’s enthusiasm for the Joiningjack cause and will also dust off their boots for the tournament.

“As soon as Jack got diagnosed I went to see AJ (Andy Johnson) in the hospital and he was absolutely devastated,” said former St Helens star Long.

“I am more than happy to do anything I can do to raise awareness or money for his charity.

“Rugby league is such a close-knit community that when word gets around, everyone just wants to help.

“To play in Dubai alongside all these legends of the game is an honour and I am really looking forward to it.”

Former Great Britain star, Carney explained: “It means a lot to see the way the rugby league community and the wider sporting community in general has rallied around Andy in his time of need.

“I’m close to both AJ and his family and anything I can do to help raise awareness and funds, I am more than happy to.”

Offiah, winner of four Challenge Cups with Wigan, added: “It is a chance for the Joiningjack charity to get some real exposure in the world market.

“It is a very worthwhile cause and all the lads are looking forward to Dubai and giving their best.

“We are keen to be in each other’s company and roll back the years,” he said. “We have history and hopefully we will create some new memories in Dubai.”

Joiningjack has attracted many celebrity supporters including boxer Ricky Hatton, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones and members of Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

Jack’s mother Alex revealed how all of the support is boosting the campaign to find a cure for the deadly disease, which affects one in 3,500 boys.

“The public and the rugby league community have been amazing and I think it is growing wider with support from Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Bradley Wiggins,” she said.

“It has made Jack’s diagnosis a lot more bearable,” she added. “The support has been incredible and overwhelming.”

For more information about helping the charity and Andy’s family, please visit www.joiningjack.org

Picture courtesy of Sophie Arnold

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