FAMILY STRENGTH: Max Bishop with his family (from left) Karlie McKlaren, Cody Masson-McKlaren, Harry Bishop and parents Mark Bishop and Caroline Masson.
FAMILY STRENGTH: Max Bishop with his family (from left) Karlie McKlaren, Cody Masson-McKlaren, Harry Bishop and parents Mark Bishop and Caroline Masson. David Nielsen

Young Max hangs up his boots to tackle his biggest battle

MANY a coach has told their players to approach every game like it is your last.

For young Max Bishop that message became a reality on Saturday when he played his last game of rugby league for the Brothers under 10's against Norths.

Told he must have a liver transplant, the junior rugby league die-hard got the grand final he always wanted when friends and family turned out at Brothers Leagues Club to turn his last game into a memory not to be forgotten.

The son of Ipswich Jets BRL coach Mark Bishop and Caroline Masson, Max is a familiar sight on the Jets bench every week.

Well known and well loved, Max was given the send-off usually reserved for a veteran of 200 NRL games.

"Everyone knows how football mad he is," Caroline Masson said. "At three-years-old he would get the Rugby League Week magazine and would play in the hallway as soon as he could walk.

"It's sad his dreams are going to change but that choice has been taken away from him."

It hasn't been an easy journey for young Max and his family. From a body-covering rash to turning as yellow as a Norths jersey, the Raceview State School student has been in and out of hospital for the past three months.

"They did 50 million tests to find out where the rash came from," Caroline said. "It was when his eyes turned yellow that the doctors realised there was obviously something wrong with his liver.

"They did a liver biopsy at the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital but still couldn't work out what was causing it, so they sent the results to two of Australia's top liver specialists. It turned out Max had a very rare vanishing bile duct syndrome, which meant only 12 per cent of the ducts in his liver were working."

Caroline said if it wasn't for the infection, they might have not picked up the rare disease.

"It's a mystery as to why he got the disease," she said.

"He had no scarring on his liver so therefore it probably started four-five months ago.

"The infection brought it to the forefront otherwise I wonder how long it would have been before we realised."

A tough hand for anyone to be dealt, at 10 years old young Max responded with a maturity beyond his years.

"My health is more important than football," Max said. "I'm alright about my last game because it's everyone's last game of the year.

"Next year when everyone is signing on that's when I'm going to miss it."

Max has already turned his mind to what the future may hold in other sports.

Testing his hand out at non-contact sports like golf, his father said even a career in coaching wouldn't be out of the question.

"He already tells the Jets boys how to palm and hold a ball properly," Mark Bishop laughed.

"He's got a different approach to the Walker brothers and he doesn't mind giving it to the boys.

"It will be up to him but he can always do some strapping or coaching if that's what he wants."

After all the ups and downs, the family must now the unknown as Max is put on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

The call could come in a matter of days, or it could be months.

Having hit so close to home, Mark has called on anyone who hears of Max's journey to consider becoming an organ donor.

"The one big thing anyone can do to help is to tick yes on that box," he said. "If through tragedy some good can happen, then that's a discussion that needs to happen.

"Be positive about it and think about how many people you could help in your passing. Donate blood.

"Max will need blood for his operation and there's plenty of kids like him that really need it too."

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