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Cathy Freeman sparked Kyah Simon’s own journey to sporting greatness

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Waiting for Cathy Freeman to run changed my life.

At the time, I was nine.

A Quakers Hill schoolgirl who spent every Saturday playing rugby league, then soccer, but never with the intention of doing anything much with either.

The Matildas?

I didn’t even know they existed.

Just as there wasn’t a female athlete, black or white, who I dreamed of becoming.

I was proud of my Aboriginality, sure. A gift provided by both my parents, Gordon and Pam, and grandmother Betty Hampton. But still, I never really had a focus, a dream.

SIMON NAMED IN MATILDAS SQUAD

Waiting for Cathy Freeman to race launched Simon’s own sporting dreams.Source: Supplied

Or not until that unforgettable September night at the 2000 Sydney Olympics – and the women’s 400m final.

Honestly, I can still see it now so clearly.

I can still feel, too, the anticipation in my family’s living room while, together, we all sat glued to the TV as those minutes ticked down.

More than anything else that night, it’s that wait which changed me. Inspired me. Just the power of it all.

Even as a young girl, I realised the feeling of anticipation wasn’t just mine. Or even my family’s. But that of an entire nation.

As a young girl, I couldn’t quite believe it.

Simon at her grandmother’s home in Quakers Hill with extended family members.Source: News Corp Australia

That all of Australia could be held captive by the pursuit of not just a woman, but an Indigenous woman.

Which is why Indigenous Sport Month is so crucial.

And why, as its first ambassador, I’m so proud to be part of a campaign that over the next several weeks will not only highlight the athletic and moral heroism of Indigenous athletes, but also those moments that inspire, signify progress, and bring change.

Importantly, moments that show how much work is still to be done.

Put simply, the goal of Indigenous Sport Month is to engage, educate and empower all Australians on the successes, challenges and triumphs of Indigenous athletes.

A month I also hope, over time, will be used to break down other barriers that Indigenous communities are facing, such as those within education, the judicial system and health.

Undoubtedly, this is the power of storytelling. Always has been.

Like that night Cathy donned a green, lycra hoodie – then went and won it all.

Or afterwards when she lapped that Olympic stadium with the Australian and Indigenous flags knotted together as one.

Still for me, the real power was in the wait.

Simon has been an integral part of the Matildas successes from more than a decade.Source: Supplied

Understanding that, yes, we are the world’s oldest living culture.

A mob famed for the athletic beauty that is Arthur Beetson, Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, and boxer Lionel Rose – for whom 100,000 cheered in 1968 when he returned to Melbourne as the WBC bantamweight king.

But this night with Cathy, it was different again.

With the nation united not in celebration, but in the hope of victory.

Rarely can an athlete stir such emotion, let alone evoke it, so powerfully, from an entire nation.

Which is why Cathy Freeman remains my first, and greatest, sporting hero.

Why in the days after she claimed that Olympic gold, I wouldn’t only discover who the Matildas were, but tell my parents that’s exactly what I was becoming.

Which is why now, Indigenous Sports Month is so important.

Not only for putting a spotlight on all the champions our people have produced – a list including my cousins Kurtley Beale and Kyle Vander-Kuyp – but also to empower that next generation of Australians.

More than simply celebrating our mob, this is about empowering them.

Simon celebrates scoring one of her 26 goals in national team colours.Source: Getty Images

Allowing young people to find a voice. A direction. A reason.

Had I never seen Cathy Freeman run, I’d never have aspired to pursue the Matildas team that has now been my life for 13 years.

Nor would I have undertaken the incredible journey that, in the past couple of seasons alone, has seen me playing with Houston Dash in America, and now PSV in the Netherlands.

And being so far from country, it can be tough at times to stay connected.

Which is why only recently I’ve started working closely with Football Australia to increase both the opportunities for Indigenous footballers in this country.

Undoubtedly, it’s a big task. With plenty of hard work ahead.

Yet anytime you want change to occur, people must first believe in the work you’re doing.

That, and the people you’re doing it for.

Which again, is why it’s so important to shine a light on all those Indigenous athletes making a difference right now.

Understanding that when illuminated, a life can change even waiting for them to race.

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Liverpool may have blocked Arsenal signing right-back perfect for Mikel Arteta this summer

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Arsenal are keen to sign a right-back this summer but their attempts to do so may have been damaged by Liverpool.

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2-1 win hands Melbourne Victory first wooden spoon

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Melbourne City will be sweating on the fitness of Andrew Nabbout and Rostyn Griffiths for their first semi-final after both succumbed to injury in their 2-1 loss against Newcastle Jets.

Played in Sydney due to Victoria’s Covid restrictions, the match served as a final-tune up before finals for City but it quickly turned sour after both players went down in the first-half.

The result may have had little bearing for City having already wrapped up top spot but the loss ultimately condemns cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory to their first ever wooden spoon.

A point was all that was needed for Newcastle to leap off the bottom of the table – but a late winner from Apostolos Stamatelopoulos put them two points clear.

The Newcastle Jets stunned the minor premiers on Thursday night. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

City coach Patrick Kisnorbo made the call to start Nabbout in an almost full-strength line-up after miraculously returning from a nasty adductor injury which he sustained four weeks ago.

However, in the dying embers of the first half, the forward pulled up lame with what looked to be a suspected recurrence of the same injury.

After attempting to play on, Nabbout was clearly labouring and was substituted at the break for fellow injury returnee Nathaniel Atkinson after two months on the sidelines.

Having boasted the league’s best attack this season, the injury is another blow to their already depleted attacking stocks with Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren on international duty.

City should get some respite as English winger Craig Noone is expected to return from soreness next week.

Griffiths, meanwhile, was subbed off clutching his hamstring after only 17 minutes – further weakening their centre-back stocks.

With Curtis Good already missing on Socceroos duty, youngster Alec Mills was subbed on to partner Nuno Reis for the remainder of the contest.

Should Griffiths miss out, it would mean Mills may be rewarded with his first ever A-League start on the big stage of finals football.

Both players have an extra two days to prove their fitness for their home semi-final after the contest was moved to next Sunday in order to allow for potentially more fans to attend the contest as Melbourne’s Covid restrictions begin to ease.

Now that Nabbout may miss their opening final, a spot in the front three has potentially opened up for Stefan Colakovski, who impressed leading the line – putting his best case forward for a start after scoring the opener.

City will head into finals without a win in three games and will host the lowest-ranked winner of the Elimination Finals at AAMI Park in ten days time.

For Newcastle, it was the final game in the tenure of coach Craig Deans, who announced he will be stepping aside after a season in charge.

16-year-old Archie Goodwin was the star of the show for the Jets, scoring a stunning equaliser with a curling rocket from long-range to tie the game before Stamatelopoulos’ header put them ahead with moments to go.

Newcastle will be in action one last time this campaign when they hit the road to face Western United in an FFA Cup qualifier on a yet to be determined date.

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Landlord uses 1000ft of flags to create ‘best decorated pub’ for Euro 2020 ‘It’s coming ho

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PUB landlord has used 500 flags to create the country’s “best decorated pub” in anticipation of the Euro 2020.

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