Big Al fulfills dream and shows us what matters OPINION 8 DEC 11 @ 05:45PM BY PETER PETERS http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/big-al-fulfills-dream-and-shows-us-what-matters/ YOUNG men with shoulders that could carry railway sleepers and stomachs you could crack eggs on had tears in their eyes. NSW State of Origin coach Ricky Stuart looked on in awe and admiration. And Sea Eagles premiership hooker Matt Ballin applauded until his hands were sore. Last Saturday - three weeks before Christmas - a few hundred gathered at the Sydney Academy of Sport at Narrabeen to watch males of all ages play out lifelong dreams on the football field. Two were yet to make double digits in terms of years on this planet while others were in their early 40s. But most struggle with some sort of disability. For one, ever-smiling 18-year-old, the simple act of pulling on a shining pair of Jarryd Hayne-like blue boots was an achievement. To catch a football and feel the thrill of charging into the opposition defence was enough to have him feel as though he had conquered Everest. All of Alex Maâ€™s last six years have been consumed by the hope that one day he could play the game he has grown to love. A chance meeting at a Sea Eagles training session as a tubby 12-year-old in 2006 ignited something inside this special young man. He struggled to get out of his wheelchair, had no real interest in life outside of his caring family and no mountains to climb. At birth in Sydney, Alexâ€™s parents, Louise and Max Ma, were told by doctors that their son would never walk or talk because of severe cerebral palsy. At age five, Alex was taken to Maxâ€™s homeland in China where, after lots of massaging and treatment using ancient herbal medicine methods, he started to show slight signs of improvement. He attended schools in China and Newport on the northern beaches. Today he is a demon chess player and speaks three languages, swims daily at the Ian Thorpe Swim Centre at Ultimo and teaches and inspires other young people with cerebral palsy. Alex is infectious. He has become my special mate and I have had him beside me at grand finals, World Club Challenges in the cold, north of England, State of Origin and Test matches, with me in the Sky Sports radio studios, at birthdays and family events. But Alex isnâ€™t just my mate. I learned last weekend how many people at the Sea Eagles he has touched. Donny Singe is a hard-nut trainer of men and has put the edge on the Sea Eagles for a long time now as head conditioner. He has put his emphasis on fitness and mind into Alex. He has spent hours making him stronger, leaner and more positive. Donny proudly watched his project reach another goal last Saturday. Several sponsors of the Sea Eagles were there to cheer Al on and give him support. A truck carried a sign which read: â€œGo Big Al.â€ I remember Al leaping to his feet in the 2008 grand final when Matt Ballin dived over to start Manlyâ€™s barrage of points on their way to a record 40-0 win. Last Saturday, I watched Matty leap to his feet as Big Al scored his first ever try - ironically from dummy-half as well. It was a beautiful thing and something every Sea Eagles player should be proud of as all of them have taken time in the gym and at matches to encourage Al and have played some part in the amazing love of life this young person now has.