A few weeks ago we were contacted by Harley, manager to Steve Waugh. A call that to this day I still reflect on for reasons that go way beyond its initial intention. An invitation to be included in the book and exhibition, The Spirit of Cricket Australia by Steve Waugh. This came about through Steve watching our Current Affair Story by Simon Bouda.
Steve is revered within the cricket circles across the world. There is a deep respect and admiration towards him as our most admired and successful Australian captain. Steve amongst many things, is a lover of backyard cricket and now a photographer with a keen interest in the essence of the game which inspires so much joy with people from all walks of life. He recently toured India to capture the spirit within this cricket obsessed country and through his book, The Spirit of Cricket India, and subsequent documentary, images of the people, the moments and places were captured with authenticity and respect.
It showed that despite the disability, the extreme and unimaginable poverty and homelessness, cricket brings so much joy, friendship and happiness. It reminded him of his youth, the innocence of just playing and the mate ship in a sport that is deeply entrenched in the history of our country. He is now on a journey to find that spirit within Australia, and Will, our Last Over and his friendship with Ben Quilty, were invited to share, the spirit of Willo.
Our Charity is all about building authentic connections in communities that open ways to being inclusive. Sport and cricket, are not always inclusive and kind, or filled with friendships for those who live with disabilities. It can be exclusive and isolating and lacking in options. It is for this reason we found a way for Will to enjoy and experience his absolute love for the game and, to be included and accepted regularly. It was also when Will met Ben.
To know Ben Quilty, is to know just how incredibly authentic he is and how intensely good at his craft he is. He is a person that has a noticeable sense of care for more than himself and wholeheartedly believes in inclusion. For those who have the good fortune to call him a friend, like Will, you know you will be seen and accepted for exactly who you are. So when Ben invited Steve and his best friend, his videographer and Harley to his studio to meet Will, he knew that the only way to capture the real spirit of Will was to firstly get to know him and to build a relationship. I stood back and watched Ben and Will show mate ship and share how the game of cricket had offered a way to see the ability and the person within the perceived disability.
Many people assume that because you’re intellectually challenged, autistic, neurodiverse in any way, you must lack ability and the need to belong. You lack enough ability that its ok to exclude you and isolate you from your community. There is an assumption that people like Will, don’t understand what it means to belong, to feel friendship. That because there is delayed language they don’t have a voice that counts or should be heard. Because they don’t always acknowledge a question or a comment that they don’t understand or have feelings around words expressed. Its simply not true. They just do it differently and in some ways its a lesson in patience and observation and our own shortcomings. Its people like Ben who can see past the perceived disabilities and see into the person. There is acceptance because he has taken the time to connect to his heart, and take away all expectations of how he should respond or behave.
Steve Waugh began to focus his camera on Will and what unfolded was I hope …. something quite magical. I feel in the hours that past, images were captured and they were not of disability or autism. It was a young man passionate about life, a friend standing with his mate and moments that exuded human potential and the spirit of cricket. That spirit of cricket for Willo is his attitude in doing something he loves. His authenticity and his genuine behaviour. The liveliness and energy that pours from his body when he runs towards the batsman. His courage and determination to fit in. The smile on his face and the sense of belonging he feels when standing with his team. The camaraderie he evokes from within his team and every team that plays with him. You feel Wills spirit. They see him.
I hope Steve captures this spirit and I hope it inspires more cricket clubs and more communities to connect and take the time to realise how the game can change a persons life. Change a teams attitude. Change a communities commitment to include all its people.