For former Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak, his connection to Dylan Tombides' family and the DT38 foundation is one that is very close to his heart.
In the wake of the Australian youth international's tragic death due to testicular cancer, Jedinak was lining up for Crystal Palace in 2015 against West Ham United - the Dylan had been a part of for four years.
Jedinak had been following the story closely but it didn't really hit him until the Tombides family walked out on to the pitch at the Boleyn Ground and held up Dylan's jersey with his number 38 on the back - a number West Ham have since retired.
“I was an opposition player albeit, a captain and an Australian. That moment is pretty hard to describe. It’s pretty hard to say what you feel and how you feel,” Jedinak told the 'Greats with Garby' Podcast.
“There’s a tremendous amount of pride, and also a lot of hurt just because it’s a boy that’s been taken far too young and with everything at his feet. With myself particularly, it’s not until subsequently after that you understand that.”
Click here to listen to the full 'Greats with Garby' Podcast with Mile Jedinak.
Having scored his first Premier League goal for Crystal Palace in that match, Jedinak said that he vividly remembers meeting the Tombides family after the match - an encounter he is incredibly grateful for.
Jedinak said, “I just remember the brief meeting and the conversation. It was very brief, just my condolences to both Tracy, Jim, and the family. I just said, ‘if you need anything, let me know and I’m here to help out if anything needs to happen."
“It was a very brief conversation, and one that I’m very grateful for. What happens after that; I went to Dylan’s funeral and his service, obviously there’s a whole heap of emotion there. All of West Ham’s first team squad is there, I was there up the back. It was a difficult moment for everybody.”
The DT38 foundation was set up in honour of Dylan with a mission to raise awareness and change the stigma associated with men’s health issues with a focus on testicular cancer.
When it came to supporting the foundation, Jedinak says that it was an easy decision to get involved.
“It’s something that I’m happy to help out with, being captain of the national team, being an Australian overseas and being someone who has one way or another, been apart of this journey," said Jedinak.
“It’s something that you’re all too happy to help out with. You give whatever you can, your time or whatever it is, to be apart of.
“I’ve been able to build on that relationship with Dylan’s family, Tracy, Jim, and Taylor, and I’m very grateful for that. They’ve got to meet my family and be apart of their lives and it’s a friendship now that we are all very grateful for.”
While he no longer lives in London, Jedinak said that the match where he met Tombides' family helped him tremendously in making a connection with the foundation and the Tombides family.
“I think maybe if we don’t play that day, I don’t know what happens. Maybe I don’t even get the introduction that I wanted. I just think how it all sort of fell into place," said Jedinak.
“It’s the hardest circumstance that no-one should have to go through, let alone parents of a young aspiring footballer. For it all to come together in that way, to me it was a no brainer, I’ve got to get involved here, I should be getting involved.”
In 2019, Football Federation Australia and Professional Footballers Australia jointly introduced the Dylan Tombides Medal award to recognise a player selected from the Under 17 (Joeys), Under 20 (Young Socceroos) and Under 23 teams.
The Medal is presented to the player who exemplifies the standards, commitment and courage in representing Australia at youth international level, honouring the memory of Dylan.
Joeys striker Noah Botic was announced as the inaugural winner in November 2019.