'This is bigger than the sport': Rhali Dobson scores, retires, then accepts marriage proposal from ill partner

Melbourne City’s Rhali Dobson was left stunned but overjoyed when the final match of her distinguished soccer career had the most unexpected fairytale ending.

Not only did the former Matilda score a goal as her side earned a 2-1 win over Perth Glory in Thursday’s W-League match but the 28-year-old received – and said “yes” to – a marriage proposal from her partner.

Dobson had told City teammates on the eve of the match that she was going to retire to spend time supporting partner Matt Stonham, who has brain cancer. As Dobson ran to celebrate with her family by the side of the pitch at the end of the match, Stonham got down on one knee and proposed.

Dobson broke down in tears before the pair were both then mobbed by her Melbourne teammates. She had proposed to him twice in recent weeks, only for him to laugh off the idea.

“This is bigger than the sport. He is my absolute world,” said Dobson after accepting the proposal. “I’d kept things pretty quiet [with the team] because I wanted them to stay focused on making sure we had a strong finish to the end of the season. As we know, it’s been very up and down.

“They knew Matt had surgery and everything so they’ve been amazing in terms of messaging us both and making sure that we knew that they are here for us. They’ve been perfect.”

Stonham was diagnosed with cancer six years ago, after having a seizure while playing football. He had surgery for a second time earlier this month and will have aggressive radiotherapy, voor 12 months of chemotherapy.

“Five days after his brain surgery he kicked my backside back down here to Melbourne, told me that I had to finish out the season, that I’ve got unfinished business and it was still normal as always,” Dobson had told ESPN earlier in the week.

“Then we got the news two days after I got back down here to Melbourne that the part that they took out – which they got all of, which is fantastic – had transitioned to a grade three brain tumour.

“So, he now starts aggressive radiotherapy until the end of May and then he’ll start aggressive chemotherapy for 12 maande. We’ve caught things exceptionally early, he’s on the very positive end of the scale because of his age.”

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