Former rugby league legends head to Dubai 7s to fundraise for Joining Jack DMD charity

  • Granada Reports sports correspondent Mike Hall exclusively caught up with Jack's family and rugby league legends

A team of former rugby league legends are preparing to play in the Dubai 7s to fundraise for Joining Jack, a charity funding research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

Joining Jack was set up by parents Andy and Alex Johnson in 2012 to raise awareness of the condition and funds for research into treatment after their son Jack was diagnosed at three-years-old in 2011.

DMD is a muscle-wasting condition that causes progressive muscle weakness.

Since his diagnosis, Jack has lost strength in his legs and his father says he is moving into a wheelchair more full time.

Eventually, Jack may need spinal rods to keep him upright and ventilation to help him breathe.

Alan Shearer, Ant and Dec, Bradley Wiggins holding up the 'linked fingers' salute to Jack Johnson.

Jack's story has inspired the nation, with celebrities donning the "linked-fingers salute" and helping him and his family raise millions of pounds towards life-changing research for treatments.

His dad is former Wigan Warrior Andy Johnson, and for the ninth year he, and other former rugby league players, are headed to Dubai to represent Joining Jack in the Dubai 7s.

The Dubai 7s is an international sport and music festival on 2 and 3 December and an opportunity for the team to raise money for the charity and hopefully bring home a trophy.

When asked if he wanted the team to win, Jack said: "I'll always want them to win but if they try their hardest that's all that matters.

"I'm really excited about the trip. A big feature is that we'll be able to raise money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and hopefully fund more research and more doctors and clinicians."

  • Jack shares his excitement for the upcoming trip to Dubai

Jack's mum Alex shared how the charity has been making a difference.

She said: "We fund 34 posts of doctors and nurses and have put investments into 11 clinical trial sites which has led to 500 boys living with Duchenne to take part in trials, including Jack.

"The drug Jack is taking has actually shown some really positive data, so it's slowing the progression of the disease down.

"So we are making a difference with what we are doing."

Alex has been recognised for her work raising awareness and funding new treatments for the condition, with an OBE from King Charles that she will receive in January 2024.

Andy said: "I'm exceptionally proud of my wife Alex, she's done an incredible job.

"The support of the rugby community. I come back from work on a day-to-day basis and Alex is on the phone to America and London, doing zoom calls, and researchers and funding.

"Its endless so an enormous part of this credit goes to Alex.

"But we're well aware the rugby community has stepped forward and supported us and that's where Joining Jack started and that's where we knew we could make some ground and raise some much needed funds.

"I'm very proud of what we've all achieved."

  • Jack's dad, former Wigan Warrior Andy Johnson

On the team lineup this year are former Wigan Warrior legends Thomas Leuluai and Sean O'Loughlin.

Leuluai said: "For me being an outsider from Wigan that's come in, I understand what it's about and what he means to the club.

"So to go over there and represent his family, I'm very honoured to do that."

O'Loughlin added: "It's very tough at times very brutal game on the field but the community that goes around that, whether that's local, or whether that's stretched to Lancashire or Yorkshire, wherever.

"I think people do like to get behind each other when people are in need."

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