Retiring Dobson says 'yes' to pitchside proposal from ill partner

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former Australia striker Rhali Dobson bowed out of professional soccer with a goal for Melbourne City on Thursday before saying 'yes' to a surprise pitchside marriage proposal from her partner Matt Stonham, who is battling cancer.

Dobson, 28, announced her retirement from Australia's W-League this week so she could return to New South Wales state to support Stonham, who was diagnosed with brain cancer several years ago and is set to undergo aggressive treatment.

In her 109th W-League match, Dobson scored in the 63rd minute to help City beat Perth Glory 2-1 at Frank Holohan Reserve in southeast Melbourne.

She tearfully embraced her partner by the touchline after the game and as she turned to see her team mates lined up nearby Stonham sneaked a ring out from the inside pocket of his jacket.

Dobson turned back to see Stonham on one knee and offering her the ring as a small crowd cheered in delight. She nodded and said "yes" as she walked back to embrace Stonham again before he put the ring on her finger.

Her team mates piled in for a big group-hug to cap Dobson's fairytale swansong.

Stonham was bearing a big scar on his scalp from recent surgery to remove a brain tumour.

"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, who played a match for Australia in 2014, told ESPN this week.

She said Stonham would undergo "aggressive" radiotherapy until the end of May and then chemotherapy for 12 months.

"We’ve caught things exceptionally early, he's on the very positive end of the scale because of his age," she added.

“We’re in for a very rough 18 months but it’s all going to be for the greater good."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)