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"I didn’t want anyone to tell me no." The new legacy of Australian sport.

COMMONWEALTH BANK
Thanks to our brand partner, COMMONWEALTH BANK

“I love sport so much that I didn’t want anyone to stop me from playing.”

That’s how CommBank ParaMatildas star, Tahlia Blanchard, approached life with big football dreams and Cerebral palsy. She had her fair share of people tell her it wasn't possible, but she stood firm in her dreams, telling Mamamia, “I didn’t want anyone to tell me no.”

Now, she’s an IFCPF Women's World Cup silver medallist with a goal of making the ParaMatildas a household name across the country. 

She’s not alone in her mission. CommBank Pararoos star, Jeremy Boyce, knows just how important exposure is for these teams, after nearly giving up playing football as a teenager because he couldn’t see a pathway to playing professionally.

“Growing up, I always wanted to play sport. I had dreams of playing for the [Central Coast] Mariners and the Socceroos but at the time I didn’t even know that the Pararoos existed,” he tells Mamamia.

Propelled by the increase of opportunities in the industry, teams like CommBank's Pararoos and ParaMatildas are starting to move toward centre stage in the Australian sporting scene. 

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Jeremy says that one of the biggest struggles he faced as an athlete had little to do with his ability and everything to do with a lack of pathway to the elite level.

“One of my main roadblocks in my professional football career was actually motivation. So before I knew that the Pararoos existed, there was nothing really to work towards,” Jeremy shares.

“That all changed when I found out about the Pararoos and I knew that there was a pathway to do this professionally.”

Tahlia got a taste of what it felt like for her team to take centre stage at the recent World Cup, when the Australian football community started throwing their support behind the CommBank ParaMatildas. 

The team only formed properly just three weeks before the tournament and went on to take home silver medals after going down to the USA in the grand final. 

“There was not a single person on that team that felt like that World Cup was a loss, just playing in the grand final was enough. We were all just so proud of what we’d done.”

Playing the final on her 22nd birthday, Tahlia recalls the support of the Australian football community made her and her team excited for the future of the squad. 

“If this is what we can do in three weeks, imagine what we are going to be like as a team in four years' time? What are we gonna be when the word of CP football gets out there and all these young girls find out that they have an opportunity to pursue sport? When that family grows, it grows us in strength and it grows our motivation.”

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Jeremy is looking towards similar success with the CommBank Pararoos but when asked about his career goals, he unselfishly said, “I just want to put the CommBank Pararoos on the main stage with the Socceroos and the Matildas. I just want people to know who we are and show us the same amount of love and support.”

A role model for young Australians hoping to break into the sport, Jeremy says that he’s going to keep pushing to shine a light on his team.

“We are representing a huge part of Australia and just having us there and being seen is impacting so many people in a positive way. If I can help grow the CommBank Pararoos on the main stage in Australia and shine a light on disability in sport, that’s my main goal.”

Another team that is changing the game for all Australians is Cricket Australia’s National Inclusion Team who recently played in the CommBank International Inclusion Series. 

Mechelle Hare, coach of the Australian Blind Cricket Team, believes that after coaching mainstream or ‘red ball’ cricket for most of her career, coaching this form of the game has been one of the best decisions she’s made.

“Having coached at New South Wales level, it gave me a good foundation. But then I had to learn how to apply those skills while taking into consideration the differences in eyesight, players' abilities and the way the game is played.”

While Mechelle tries to coach as similarly to red ball cricket as possible, she’s definitely had to adapt her training style.

Image: Supplied.

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“I talk to the players about their vision, what works for them, what they find really difficult. It's really great because you get to communicate with the boys a lot more than red ball cricketers and in turn, you get more out of them on how to make the game better for up-and-coming players.”

The success of the Australian Blind Cricket Team can most recently be seen in their victory during the 2022 CommBank International Inclusion Series. Additionally, Australian Blind Cricket opening batter Steffan Nero broke a world record when he scored a triple century. 

Mechelle’s passion for introducing more players to the sport shines brightly when she speaks about making the game of cricket more accessible to all.

“Programs like A Sport For All, supported by CommBank, are an absolute breakthrough for making sport accessible to everyone. Just knowing that more people are realising that they don’t have to miss out, that they can play, is fantastic.”

If there’s one thing that Tahlia, Jeremy and Mechelle have in common, it’s their desire for Australians of all abilities to be able to have a go. 

From the ParaMatildas to the ParaRoos, CommBank  is championing those who are changing the game for the better. 

See how A Sport For All, in partnership with CommBank, are supporting the next generation of game changers in sport.

Feature Image: Instagram/@tahlziya

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COMMONWEALTH BANK
Sport is integral to the health and wellbeing of all Australians. That’s why CommBank has partnered with Football Australia’s Pararoos and ParaMatildas teams, as part of their commitment to ensure that Australians from grassroots, to the elite level have the access and support to achieve their dream. Commbank is also a proud supporter of Cricket Australia’s ‘A Sport For All’ program, which champions inclusivity and diversity in cricket through indigenous, multicultural, people with a disability and LGBTQIA+ community initiatives. CommBank, supporting you for a brighter future.