A PAIR of shorts and a smile were all that was needed to make Zachary’s day.
The Tamworth boy with a rare genetic syndrome has had his ultimate West Tigers footy fantasy granted by the Starlight Foundation.
Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome is a rare congenital condition with no cure, but 15-year-old Zachary Whetton doesn’t let the sometimes disabling side-effects get him down.
The South Tamworth teenager has been in and out of hospitals since he was a baby and has had around 20 operations to fix bowel and heart problems.
A shortage of bone means his left arm isn’t growing, he suffers from migraines and varicose veins stop him from playing his beloved game of football.
His infectious smile belies his symptoms however, with the ear-to-ear grin rarely leaving his face after the mad West Tigers fan had his wish granted last weekend.
On Friday night Zachary led the West Tigers team out on the field at Sydney’s Alliance Stadium with his hero Benji Marshall at his side.
Invited back to the locker rooms after the game against the Bulldogs, he scored signatures of all of the Tigers team members and was thrilled when Benji took off his shorts after the game and gave them to him.
“It was awesome. He’s my idol and one of the best players out,” the teenager said.
Zachary said others could claim to be the Tigers’ number one fan, but that he took the top spot.
“They can try, but I’m still number one,” he said.
The signed pair of shorts will have to fight for space on his wall with all of the rest of his Tigers paraphernalia, as mum Suzi said they were headed straight to the framing shop.
Mrs Whetton said it was a battle to keep the surprise a secret when the Starlight Foundation contacted her.
“He knew he was going to the game, but he had no idea he would be walking onto the ground with him. He’s still raving on about Benji,” she said.
“He was absolutely lost for words.”
Mrs Whetton said Zachary’s condition had been tough on the family financially, but that times like these brought them together.
As part of his wish, the McCarthy Catholic College student was also taken out whale-watching off Sydney Harbour and spent some time at Madame Tussauds with dad Peter and brother Caleb.
“He had such a great weekend,” Mrs Whetton said.
She said the only low point of the weekend was the fact the Tigers lost.