Border Chronicle journalist Taylor Harvey has taken a huge step towards representing Australia for the first time after attending a Pararoos training camp at Canberra's Australian Institute of Sport from February 19-21.
It was the first time since November, 2019, that the national team had assembled, with COVID-19 resulting in the team participating in no camps or tournaments.
The Pararoos is an international soccer team for athletes with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms acquired from stroke.
In 2005, at the age of eight, blood tests, lumbar punctures, x-rays and MRIs revealed Harvey had contracted the rare virus, transverse myelitis.
A one in 26 million chance, the neurological virus caused inflammation across the width of both sides of one level of his spinal cord.
Doctors told his family that there was a high likelihood that the virus could have progressed further and made him a quadriplegic, or even put him in a vegetative state.
A 20-player squad attended the team's first camp of 2021, with Harvey being among five players yet to debut for Australia.
The Pararoos are working towards the 2021 IFCPF Nations Championship in Spain, which was unfortunately postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19. The tournament has been re-scheduled for July.
"My first camp was back in 2015, and it took me six years to be called up to my second. I have been training consistently for years, and to be given another opportunity is reward for effort," Harvey said.
"Being able to train with some of the most talented disabled footballers in the country was a great experience. I was able to learn a lot from captain David Barber, who has 101 caps for the Pararoos."
The squad was able to complete three internal trial games, giving coach Kai Lammert the best opportunity see players in action.
"I am not going to say that I was faultless over the three days, as I still have plenty learn, but each game allowed me to showcase the many improvements to my overall game," Harvey said.
"The final game on the Sunday morning was arguably my strongest - I felt comfortable on the ball, was able to make crucial tackles, defend one-on-ones, and provide passes that started attacking movements."
Harvey said he hoped to continue improving to make sure he was one of the players at the next camp in April.
"The next couple of months will involve me playing as much football as possible at my club side Naracoorte United," Harvey said.
"To represent the Pararoos has been my dream since I was 16 - I hope all of my hard work will result in me being able to pull on the green and gold for the first time."