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NRL world in shock as Maroons legend Carl Webb loses MND battle at just 42

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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22nd December, 2023
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WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article includes images and names of deceased people.

Queensland legend Carl Webb has passed away at the age of just 42 after a prolonged battle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

The Broncos, Cowboys and Eels hardman died at his home in Dalby, Queensland, having been diagnosed three years ago. He is survived by his wife and four children.

Webb made 12 appearances for Queensland during their 2000s glory years, winning on six occasions and scoring two tries, including a legendary effort on debut in the 2001 clincher.

He also got a Kangaroos jersey, in a midyear Test against the Kiwis in 2008 and twice played for Indigenous rep sides, including late career All Stars appearances in 2010 and 2011.

Webb made 187 first grade appearances after breaking through at the Broncos, and was part of their 2000 Premiership squad although he did not play in the Grand Final.

A ferocious competitor on the field, he later turned to boxing and fought on an Anthony Mundine show in 2010.

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Tributes immediately began pouring in for Webb, both for his playing career and his later charity work for MND-related causes.

“Anyone who has come across Carl’s battle will have been touched by his bravery,” said Arustralian Rugby League Commission Chair Peter V’landys.

“He was a fearsome player and competitor and one of the toughest forwards to play in his era. He had a physical presence and aggression which was unmatched.

“He showed every bit of that toughness following his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease.

“Carl was a key part of some exceptional teams at Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys and as a result was able to represent Queensland on 12 occasions, while also being selected for Australia in the Centenary Test in 2008.

“Carl also represented the Indigenous All Stars – forever being part of history by playing in the first match in 2010.

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“On behalf of the Commission, I extend my condolences to Carl’s family, friends, and all those who played with and knew him.”

Queensland premier Steven Miles added: “Carl Webb was a great player. I didn’t know him but I do know people who did and they praised his character.

“My thoughts and prayers just go to go to his family, who will obviously be grieving.”

Webb was diagnosed in 2020, telling Newscorp in 2001 of the struggles of living with such a degenerative neurological condition.

He raised money for charities related with MND, which has no known cure, while fighting against it himself.

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“Everything you do is just a battle,” he said. “Day by day, I’m on a slow decline…but I’m not about to just roll over.

“I can see a big difference in the past year. I have declined a fair bit.

“Getting dressed in the morning is a task. I struggle to button my shirts up and pull my trousers and shorts up.

“I can still walk, but my legs are starting to get a bit sloppy. I drag my feet a bit. If I fall, it’s a real struggle to get back up. I can’t push myself up.

“Strength was a big thing for me, I was always strong, but now my strength is gone.

“I am losing all muscle definition. It’s starting to waste away.”

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Webb was one of many former rugby stars of both codes to suffer with MND.

Research has shown that rugby players, who are exposed to an above average number of concussions, are as much as 15 times more likely to develop the disease than the general public.

Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow has been battling the disease for several years – raising millions for charity in the process – alongside former Scotland international Doddie Weir, who died late last year. Ex-Springbok Joost van der Westhuizen also died of MND in 2017.

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