From a local pitch in Rockhampton to the Deaf T20 World Cup in India: Sean Walsh on his pride at inspiring deaf kids and the planning and awareness that is necessary in his sport. By Christopher Currie.


No sound barrier: Sean Walsh, 21, cricketer

Making the Australian squad for the Deaf T20 World Cup [being played in India this month] is an absolute dream come true. This selection is something I’ve been working towards for a long, long time, so it’s very satisfying. The week I got the call was quite something. On Wednesday, I got fired from my job, the Thursday I found out I’d made the Australian team and on Friday I got picked to make my Rockhampton A-grade debut. My brother debuted the same day I did and we both got wickets. It was an up-and-down 72 hours, but it was awesome.

The biggest thing for me is to be the only player selected who’s not from a capital city. I’m really proud to be from Rockhampton. The world goes a little slower up here than it does in the hustle-bustle of the big cities. I’m so proud to be representing not only north and central Queensland, but anyone outside of a capital city; showing kids there’s still a pathway to sporting success if you don’t live in the big smoke.

This tour to India will be a big experience. I’ve never been out of the country, let alone flown by myself. I’ve worked out that door-to-door I’ll be away for 19 days. The other boys in the team have been teasing me that because I’m from Rocky, I’m not allowed to complain about the heat in India. They’ve told us the pollution index in Delhi equates breathing the air to smoking 65 cigarettes a day, so the heat’s probably the least of my worries.

My role in the team is as the front-line off-spinner. I’ve been working really hard to improve my bowling. I’ll be doing a job in the first six overs or during a power play. I’ll bat between six and eight. I’m not the cleanest hitter of a cricket ball, I’ve got to say. I’ve already been told I’ll be opening the batting during our Test tour to South Africa next year because I block the ball too much.

Planning is really important to our team. Because there’s a range of communication levels within the team, planning and game awareness is so much more important. I’ll go into a game knowing exactly when and what I’ll bowl: what my job is wherever we are in the game. Everyone has to know their role in the team back to front. In the field, we have signals, but when you’re batting you can’t whip off your gloves halfway through an over to sign to your partner, so lip-reading and non-verbal communication is that much more important.

I had a lot of ear infections between the ages of three and five. I got grommets put in when I was seven but they found out when I was eight-and-a-half that instead of falling out, they’d busted my eardrums. The scarring from that caused my hearing loss. I’m very lucky in that I was already speaking by the time I lost my hearing. I’ve never had to do speech therapy or anything like that. It makes you feel lucky more than anything – compared to some of the other guys in the team, what they’ve gone through.

It took me a long time not to hide my deafness. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I thought, “Why am I hiding this and why am I ashamed of this?” In a way, deaf culture has given me a place to belong. I’ve got some friends who are Indigenous, and I’ve chatted to them about it, how their identity comes from their culture. Rather than trying to hide it, you take pride in it. My story’s quite unique and quite unfortunate in a way, but everything happens for a reason. If I was given a magic pill to have my hearing back, I wouldn’t take it. It’s made me who I am.

I’ve been lucky enough to do some work mentoring young deaf kids. It’s something I’m really passionate about. The more exposure we can give to the challenges teenage deaf kids have the better. The other day it occurred to me that out of the millions of Australians who suffer from some kind of hearing loss, I’m one of 14 chosen to represent my country. When you start looking at it that way, it’s amazing. I’m not super comfortable with being a role model, and I don’t really enjoy puffing my chest out and going, “Look at me!”, but if my story can inspire just one young person, then my job is done.

This week’s highlights…

Soccer: W-League – Western Sydney Wanderers v Newcastle Jets

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEDT), Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park, Sydney

Tennis: Davis Cup final – France v Croatia

Saturday, 11.59pm (AEDT); Sunday, 11pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille, France

Rugby union: Wallabies v England

Sunday, 2am (AEDT), Twickenham, London

Cricket: Australia v India, 3rd Twenty20

Sunday, 6.50pm (AEDT), Sydney Cricket Ground

• Motorsport: F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Monday, 12.10am (AEDT), Yas Marina Circuit, United Arab Emirates

• Basketball: FIBA World Cup qualifier – Boomers v Iran

Friday, 7.35pm (AEDT), Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 24, 2018 as "No sound barrier".

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Christopher Currie is a Brisbane-based writer. His next novel is Clancy of the Undertow.

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