A Sporting Pioneer: Helping to Establish a Country’s Paralympic Movement

The Story of Bill Mather-Brown

I live in a realm of fantasy where I’m alive and free. I live in a world of madness where nobody’s mad but me. If poetry is madness like walking in the rain, I’d rather be happy in madness than only be sad but sane. — Neil Parkinson

Today the Paralympics is a massive international event, drawing in thousands of competitors, and countless spectators worldwide. They have continually shown growth each event, and the delayed Tokyo 2020 games were set to be the biggest yet. There is certainly an air of prestige surrounding the Paralympics now, but for a long time sports geared towards the disabled were seen as something of a novelty or gimmick. It took the blood, sweat and tears of countless athletes, support staff and volunteers to get to where the games are today. Some of those names have seemingly been lost due to the passing of time and some lackluster record keeping, but it would be irresponsible of us not recognize them.

In this article, we will tell the story of a specific athlete, while at the same time attempting to shed light on what kind of obstacles those who have impairments face inside and outside the sporting world.

This is a story of a bloke. A tough, perseverant and self-admittedly stubborn bloke. From a child polio survivor to a hall of famer, Bill Mather-Brown took an unlikely path to carve his name into the annals of sports history. He helped establish a movement in Australia and has remained a firm supporter of paraplegic sports. He was kind enough to share his story, giving us a look into what it took to become a pioneer of a sports movement.

“ They (paraplegic sports) are important as it gives the ability to compete in athletics to a large section of the population that otherwise would have no means to. But it’s still only as important as you make it to be, and is no different than what it (athletics) means to an able-bodied person.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Escaping and Finding Polio

If there’s one thing Bill doesn’t want, it’s your pity. Never one to seek it, nor accept it from those around him. Bill believes that we only have one life, and throwing it away or wasting it, is a tragedy. Despite his mentality of toughness and perseverance, he ironically has more of a right to complain than most, being dealt a rather difficult hand early on in life.

“ You don’t accept pity because it’s patronising. You should of course help people when necessary, but you should treat us (paraplegics) as ordinary people.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Born in Freemantle, a port city in Western Australia on April 14th 1936, Bill Mather-Brown was brought to the world by his parents Queenie and Alan Brown. They had their first son “Dibbs”, three and a half years prior to Bill, and from the outside perhaps looked like the ideal family. Navigating the ups and downs, the family would go through strenuous times, one of the first being in the inconspicuous mining town of Agnew.

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An old mine in Agnew, Western Australia. Photo via miningweekly.com

The year was 1938, just prior to the outbreak of WW2. The polio virus was running rampant throughout the world, and it had finally reached Western Australia. Fearing the effect it would have on their young family, Alan and Queenie began considering heading to a less populated area. The two had previously discussed moving to Agnew, leaving their home town of North Freemantle in hopes that the rumours of riches were true. Queenie contested the move, but with the pandemic spreading in Perth and Freemantle, along with glowing reviews of the town from Alan’s mother, they ultimately made the move.

When they arrived, it didn’t take long for them to realize they had been duped, and found Agnew to be essentially a ghost town. Void of most of the basic infrastructure of other cities, the town offered little in the way of support. Ironically, the very thing they were running away from, was one of the few things they would actually find. Bill ended up contracting polio at the age of two and a half, playing outside on a hot, sunny day, collapsing on the ground due to the illness.

“There is no resentment towards Agnew. None at all. I don’t know how you feel about fate, but we went to Agnew as a family and we put it down to fate.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

His mother Queenie immediately knew that his sickness was not normal, and opted to take him 140km away to the town of Leonora. There, Bill was diagnosed with polio for the first time. That was just the beginning of the long road ahead. From Leonora, Bill and his mother had to make the long trip via ambulance to Kalgoorlie. It was the longest trip of young Queenie’s life, who seldom brought it up after the ordeal.

“ At that time it was 1938, my family would have had quite a fright as they knew nothing about this disease (Polio), except that they knew it existed. My mother took the brunt of it all, she had to ride with me. She had a very tough time, but she came through.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Bill would remain in Kalgoorlie’s hospital for 12 months recovering while his family remained in Agnew. Fortunately he was only mildly hit with polio, losing the function of only his left leg, but luckily keeping all sensation. It was at Kalgoorlie, that Bill would begin to learn how to deal with his new life, living with an impairment.

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A young Bill poses with his crutches, many years after contracting Polio in Agnew.

Tough Times Makes a Tough Kid

Bill is not a drinker or a smoker, and realized that he had enough problems without adding what those substances brought along with them. It never appealed to him, having had many first-hand experiences as to what it can do to a character of an individual: from his teammates, to friends, to his very own family. Bill was always much more concerned about winning sporting events or horses to ever be caught up in that lifestyle.

This relationship with booze manifested early in Bill’s life. His father Alan not only loved to drink, but at times did so at the expense of his family. As one would surmise, this resulted in a strained relationship between Alan and the matriarch of the Brown’s household. The two would reach boiling points at times, and Bill can recall the horror of being a little child, with his parents having a “few in”, as he puts it.

“It (my father’s alcoholism) taught me not to drink. I don’t smoke or drink. Having a disability is already a challenge and you don’t need anymore that those bring upon.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

This would eventually culminate into the night of, “The Man that Stayed at Home”. Alan, having served in the military, was never sent overseas for a combat tour. Queenie used this fact to mock him repeatedly, to tune of a poem she had created herself, with the aforementioned title. Bill recalls her getting a particularly vicious “hiding”, the last of their marriage. The family separated following that incident.

“I don’t recall having any fears specifically, but we had difficulties and they always stuck to me like glue.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

At first Queenie took the kids with her, working hard at hotels to make ends meet. However, this became impossible, and Queenie who had been so focused on her family needed some time to figure things out. This resulted in Bill having to go through a number of different living situations. From the dreaded Nedlands Boys Home, to the freedom of Langwell and the nurturing environment of the Kowald Family of Jam Hills, Bill was always on the move.

While certainly a tough emotional rollercoaster for one as young as Bill, he did meet several people along his journey that had an incredible impact on him. Norman Beck, one of the headmasters and the father figure of Langwell for example, was always willing to give a young Mather-Brown “a go” at anything he wanted to try. At Langwell, Bill was never made to feel so different from any of the other boys.

“Of all the things, I liked farm work the most. Working sheep, working calves. They (the Langwells), were very very good to me. I love riding horses, and they almost always let me ride there.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

For the majority of his youth, Bill enjoyed the bush life more than a domesticated city one. Falling in love with the outdoors, horses and farm life; he didn’t let his mobility issues stop him from exploring the outdoors. He was bent on being able to keep up with the able bodied children. While certainly helpful around Langwell and the Kowald’s family farm doing various jobs, it became apparent when staying at Jam Hills that Bill couldn’t make a career of farming. When it came time, Bill departed for the city looking for work.

Work Life & Discovering a Passion

Bill headed to Melville, where there was a rehabilitation center that helped train people with disabilities to find jobs. Despite experiencing some of his limitations on the farm, he was still convinced that the bush life was for him, applying to some jobs that would reunite him closer to nature. That dream came to a crumble after a trip outdoors with some friends. A couple of long nights out in the wilderness, sleeping on the ground and shivering from the cold night’s air, made Bill realize that maybe a domesticated life was not so bad after all.

Bill would find himself working as a switchboard and two-way radio operator for the Swan Taxi Company. This would later turn into a job as a switchboard operator with Wesfarmers Co-operative at their wool store. He would then use that as a platform to get a job for the Chanel Seven television station.

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Bill hard at work, operating the telephones at his job.

“ In Australia we have a pretty good system, if you want a job and are disabled the employment agency will find you a job. You don’t have to go out and meet many people on your own. I was fortunate in this way.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

While given plenty of opportunities in various fields of work, Bill did feel discrimination from those who disregarded his abilities due to an ableist mind set. When applying to a job as a recreational officer many years later, he was overlooked due to the principal of the school assuming that Bill didn’t have any sensation in his legs. This would have caused problems while driving a bus, which was a job requirement. If it were true.

Not one to get extreme joy or satisfaction out of his work life, Bill worked as simply a means to an ends. Bill had other interests and dabbled in the media, thanks in large part to his brother Dibbs who was well versed in the industry. While Bill never fully committed to becoming a sports reporter, deciding to give it the old go would turn out to be one of the most influential decisions in his life.

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Bill’s older brother Dibbs interviewing The Beatles when they came to Australia.

One day, Bill was called in to see Monty Menhennett at the 6IX studio where he was employed part time. Menhennett directed Bill to go cover the disable sports day being held at the Infectious Diseases Branch of Royal Perth Hospital at Shenton Park. At first Bill was reluctant to go, telling his employer he had no interest in anything to do with the disabled. Menhennett made it clear that if Bill wanted to keep his job, this wasn’t a choice.

Bill was bitter that he got stuck with this assignment, but begrudgingly headed to Shenton Park anyways. He began writing his story about “their crummy sports day”, before even arriving at the event. With claims of their “bravery”, combating the world in a highly patronising manner.

“The reason I was so reluctant at first was, at that time everyone was playing on the sympathy side of it (disabled sports) and I didn’t want to be involved with (facilitating) it.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Much of the morning, Bill’s skepticism remained unchanged. The events were archery and track, neither so much as a sparking an interest. Come afternoon however, Bill would — as he put it — “come face to face with his destiny”. He observed for the first time, the sport of wheelchair basketball. While the chairs were not in tip top shape, and the competitors even less so, Bill was enthralled by the action he saw. This was all the way back in the September of 1955, eighteen months after the establishment of the Spinal Unit at the Royal Perth Hospital.

Joining the Squad & the Early History of Competition

The Spinal Unit at the Royal Perth Hospital was still very much in its infancy phase when Mr. Mather-Brown joined. For a long time, those who suffered from spinal damage would often be left uncared for, resulting in many premature deaths.

It was through the effort of some special individuals that the attitude towards treating spinal patients quickly changed. Sir Ludwig Guttman, Dr. Ernie England, Sir George Bedbrook and Johnno Johnston were instrumental to the success of The Unit. They are those who helped establish the basis for paraplegic sports to prosper both globally and in Western Australia. But more importantly, they greatly helped to improve the quality of life for paraplegics and quadriplegics.

The Likes Of Me

The likes of me must take some time

To think on the likes of you

For the conscience heart that govern us

Proclaims that a debt is due

And it pains the thoughtful who dwell on it

With some sadness, I’m afraid —

The account that we find owing

Is one that can’t be paid.

- Bill Mather-Brown’s poetry

Sports for these founding fathers were not originally meant to be something competitive in nature. Sports were simply seen as a tool for rehabilitation and recovery. However, don’t tell Bill Mather-Brown that. For him, winning was often the ultimate goal.

“ Being disabled you are confronted with challenges everyday. You get on a bus, off a bus, climb a tree, etc. All those things are challenges. My family always supported me when I wanted a go at anything, which resulted in becoming very competitive.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Bill would have his first competition in 1956, competing at the same sports day he so reluctantly went to a year prior. Participating in a variety of sports: javelin, fencing and even winning the weightlifting event. But for Bill, the real “belle of the ball”, was wheelchair basketball. He loved the physicality, team cohesion and competitiveness.

The Spinal Unit at the Royal Perth hospital was the premiere program in all of Australia, with plenty of willing staff. The unit benefitted from this sense of community and they became more than simply a team.

Establishing Wheelchair Basketball

In 1957 when Bill joined the Paraplegic unit, the sport of wheelchair basketball was rather new for everyone involved and at that time, there were only two teams in the area: The Para Swans and the Avion Paras, named after their sponsors. They both however were practicing out of the Royal Perth hospital and were really almost one team. While the resources were limited, this was a time Bill reflects on fondly, as the “Unit”, was really where the enthusiasm of Paralympic sports in Australia took seed and would grow into what we see today.

“The enthusiasm was high in the unit, because for the first time, people were getting the treatment they needed. Before patients didn’t last long, and would often die due to being left on their own. All of a sudden people realized they had a life to live.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

While spirits were certainly high from the beginning, the man power and monetary funding were not all there. The first issue they ran into was the relative lack of competition. The players were committed to train for hours on end, but they simply didn’t have anyone to play against besides each other in 1956-57. It wasn’t until the Churches of Christ basketball competition decided to send their bye team each week to play Bill’s squad. Despite finally having a real opponent for the para-squad, the opposing teams all being comprised of able-bodied players, had little experience using chairs and never once bested The Unit.

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The badge of the Swan Paras Western Australia team.

It wasn’t just the competition that was underdeveloped, but the singular most important piece of equipment. The chair.

Back then, the chairs were a collection of anything the players could get their hands on. The hospitals had some of their own chairs, but they were “shockers” as Bill puts it. They had three wheels instead of four, with two large wheels in the front and a small wheel at the back, often resulting in some tumbles by players.

“The chairs we used compared to what they use today are completely different. They can be lightweight material and can turn very easily. We had a guy by the name of Mr. Gill Ford try his best to make suitable wheelchairs for us. Even then they were heavy and difficult to turn.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Despite these shortcomings, what The Unit lacked in resources, they made up for with grit and enthusiasm. This passion and dedication for the newfound sport came to fruition in 1957, when Sir Ludwigg Guttmann, the grandfather of para-sports made a guest appearance during a sports day. He informed the athletes while handing out trophies that enough money had been raised to travel abroad. Australia could send an official national team to the Mandeville Games that year. This officially made Bill and his teammates the first wheelchair sports team to ever represent Australia at an international competition. A truly proud moment.

First Australian International Paraplegic Team & The Stoke Mandeville Games

It was all set for the team. They became somewhat of celebrities around the hospital. Seven people from Western Australia became the bulk of the competitors for the Australian National team. Those were: Colin Campbell, Frank Ponta, Alan Quirk, Roger Cockerill, Jim Atkins, Slim O’Connell and Bill Mather-Brown. Two other individuals, Bruce Thwaite from New South Whales and a Southern Australian by the name of John Rein rounded out the team.

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A photo of the first Australian international wheelchair team. Front: Jim Atkins, Colin Campbell, Roger Cockerill, Bill Mather-Brown. Middle: Bruce Thwaite, Frank Ponta, Slim O’Connell (captain) , Alan Quirk. Back: Johnno Johnston (manager) , Edna Smith (nurse)

When it came time to make the flight to jolly old England, many showed up to wish the team a farewell. It was a time of many firsts. First Australian wheelchair team to compete internationally, first time for many of the athletes to go abroad and even the airlines itself sent a doctor to travel with the team, unsure if the flight would cause problems for the paraplegic athletes. Thankfully and in hind sight, obviously it didn’t.

There were many pitstops along the way, due to the relatively short distance planes could travel at that time. After a couple days, they arrived at Heathrow airport, and there the team quickly hopped onto a bus headed for the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where the games were to be held. Although quite a modern facility now, at the time the billets used by athletes resembled old wooden army huts you may see in war movies.

“ I didn’t think much about the facilities when I got there. They were unremarkable and I was focused on competing.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Individuals on the team were competing in multiple events, not just basketball. Bill tried to enter as many events as he possibly could like he always did. This of course included basketball, but also team sabres and swimming. The first gold medal at international competitions Bill and Australia ever won was in team sabres; ironically his most hated event.

While some events were a smashing success, the most important sport for Bill, and the reason he joined the “Unit” in the first place, basketball, was a massive disappointment. The tournament was a straight up elimination bracket. Meaning you lose and you’re out. The Australian team traveling halfway around the world unfortunately was knocked out in a single game. A feeling Bill would soon not forget.

“We were the young newcomers to the scene. Some other programs were quite strong and established, like the Dutch and the Pan-American Jets. We realized what we had to do to compete.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

The basketball finals of the 1957 Stoke Mandeville games, was a contest between the Dutch and the Pan-American Jets; The Harlem Globetrotters of the games. Unfortunately, something that plagued much of the games, also popped up in the finals. The rules and officiating.

While many would look back on the games fondly, including Bill. He wasn’t delusional of the deficiencies in the games. Yes this included funding and some facilities, but something that really bothered Bill was the refereeing and the general lack towards competitiveness.

“They did a magnificent job of starting it up but only did so for medical reasons. But most people wanted to play competitively. It was a long time before there was really a feeling of competition. They should have called in more able officials to run the games earlier than they did.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Many of those who were tasked with managing the rules of the games were volunteers or hospital staff, some of whom were ill-equipped to be regulating parasports.

During the finals, four physiotherapists tried to control the game, but with lots of roughhousing and complaining from the American side, the game became out of hand. The last straw came when a Dutchman setting himself up for a shot, was dumped backwards by two of the Jets players who simultaneously picked up the front of his chair on either side. The Dutch stormed off the court and the game was rewarded to their side, due to the Yank’s poor sportsmanship.

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A young Bill preparing for a shot.

Outside of the games itself, there were plenty of interactions amongst athletes and locals. The athletes were given a VIP treatment, sent on tourist trips in their downtime. While for the Bill and the Australian Team, ultimate success was not reached, the team had done exactly what they set out to do. Proving that the long travel wasn’t a barrier for the handicapped.

Official Birth of The Paralympics

The Stoke Mandeville Games would continue to expand for the next two years, allowing for more athletes and events to be included. The first major change however came at the beginning of the 1960’s. The Stoke Games would be held in a venue outside of the England for the first time. The games were off to Rome!

Not only did this signify the true beginning of an international event, it also brought upon other changes as well. The games were to be held every four years, to coincide with the Olympic Games, and it marked the start of the Paralympics, from a historical stand point anyways.

Bill Mather-Brown: The Paralympian

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Bill (far left) and other wheelchair athletes representing Australia at the 1960 games. Photo via paralympic.org.au

Rome 1960

Despite being recognized as the first modern day Paralympics, at the time it was still under the guise of, The Stoke Mandeville Games. It wasn’t until 1988 during the Seoul Games that the term Paralympics began to be used officially. Despite the name remaining the same, it was a major step forward for the movement.

The number of athletes ballooned to 400, across 23 different nations. The opening ceremonies took place six days after the closing ceremonies of the Olympics and spanned seven days. The athletes were greeted with a fandom of over 5000 cheering audience members, a crowd unheard of at that time for paraplegic sports. The games entry was supposedly limited to spinal cord injuries, but some exceptions like for polio victims were made.

While the games were expanding in terms of quality of venues and equipment, they were let down by officialdom according to Bill. There were some questionable calls, with the host nation being shown some favoritism.

“It is just my opinion, but the 1960 Games were still focused on the medical aspect of the games. It wasn’t until the following Games in Tokyo that a shift towards a competitive nature took place.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Bill would win a silver medal in the Men’s Doubles Table Tennis event, alongside his partner Bruno Moretti. There were a total of 57 different events across eight different sports. The host nation of Italy ending up in first with 82 medals in total. Bill and the Australian team ended up with 11 medals. Despite winning a silver, Bill’s ultimate goal of claiming gold in basketball would escape him again.

Tokyo 1964

According to Bill, some of the problems that bogged down the 1960 Games were corrected at the 1964 Tokyo Games. In his own words “they were spot on”, referring to the Japanese hosts. The games which saw 390 athletes from 22 nations had more of a professional atmosphere, that the athletes appreciated.

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The 1964 Australian Paralympic team at the 1964 Tokyo Games. Photo via paralympic.org.au

“Those running the games in Tokyo were spot on. They were welcoming and acted as professionals. It was a great time and they were great hosts.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

While the number of athletes went down, Bill believes the quality of the events went up. For one, the refereeing was taken more seriously, as well as the act of classifying an athletes disabilities were becoming more distinct.

Bill recalls his fellow teammate having a run in with an official. Australian athlete Roy “Chook” Fowler was medically rated as a quadriplegic swimmer, but his performance had some people raising eyebrows. When a doctor came over to shake his hand, seemingly expecting Fowler to have somehow cheated, he was met with surprise to find out Fowler was telling the truth. He walked away seemingly angry, and Chook was confused. He of course was able to retain his medal.

Bill remembers hearing about another competitor in basketball who was seemingly pulling one over the officials. He pretended to have a high lesion injury, which means your injury and loss of sensation is from the chest down, rather than the waist. The doctors suspected he was lying about this and one doctor rolled a ball towards him, and without hesitation he bent down in such a way that made it apparent he was lying. The doctors are tasked with the difficult duty of properly diagnosing classes, and Tokyo 1964 games saw this greatly improved upon.

The athletes village was also more impressive and secure than previous games. Access was restricted for those wanting to come in and out. It was also at these games that the term Paralympics first appeared, however not as an official slogan.

One of Bills memorable moments was at the expense of Sir George Bedbrook, the head doctor of the Unit at the Royal Perth Hospital. One day when Sir George was standing with a group of other medical professionals, Bill pushed up to him and said loud enough for all to hear. “Hey Doc, I’m up against a classy field in the one hundred and I was wondering if you would give me a shot of the same stuff you gave Jack before he won his last sprint.” That one made Sir George stand up as if he was shot in the rump. Everyone realized the humour of the situation and laughed it off.

Bill didn’t medal in any event that year, but the Australian program overall had a very strong showing, winning 30 medals in total. Nearly triple that of the previous games.

Tel Aviv 1968

The games in Israel’s city of Tel Aviv would be special in a number of ways. They grew to almost double the size of the previous games with 750 athletes, as well as an overall feeling of growth to support the movement. The games were held separate from the 1968 Summer Olympic Games, due to contract disputes with Mexico City. While this may seem like a negative, it showed that despite some wrinkles, other nations were willing to step up to the plate and host the games. The Paralympics were becoming something not so easily swept a side.

Tel Aviv was very memorable for Bill for a number of reasons. It made him realize just how different the situation of other nations were, and he found a newfound regard for what he had back home.

“It was strange for us to see soldiers patrolling the streets with weapons. It made us appreciate our life back in Australia.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

The Australian Teams’ guides were a couple of female Israeli soldiers who helped the team at all times. They would arrive early in the morning and work long days, assuring smooth operations in regards to accommodations. The guide always assigned to the Australian Team was Gabrielle. A National Service woman by trait, but a university student in her down time. The Australian team upon departing surprised her with a bag stuffed with a sizeable amount of money for her tuition fees and a plush toy. She was brought to tears. It’s moments like these that show the communal atmosphere of the games.

For Bill personally, it also marked the last Paralympics for the pioneer. When it came time to Tel Aviv, there were some youngsters ready to take the old heads places, using the resources and youth programs that were popping up.

“At the time I didn’t actually know it would be my last games. I knew it could come to an end, but I continued competing in other events.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

While an end to an outstanding Paralympic career, Bill was hardly finished and continued to compete internationally at the Commonwealth Games. Fortunately for Bill he didn’t leave empty handed, and won the silver medal in the Men’s Slalom with a time of 1:11:00.

While Bill never won the apple of his eye, the gold medal in basketball, he had a fulfilling career nonetheless. His impact on the program and the sport in Australia extended far beyond simply his playing career, and is an ambassador to this day.

The Role of Coaching & Recruiting

Despite being a hall of famer and a founding father of wheel chair sports, basketball was not Bill’s first love when it came to sports. No that special place belongs to Australian Rules Football. As a young child, the East Mantle Football Club (a.k.a Old East), played a massive role in his life. A diehard fan who had many close encounters with the team; Bill would eventually find himself leading his own troop.

Throughout his lifetime, even as a young adult, Bill was interested in coaching. While most of his success in coaching came while playing and leading wheel-chair teams, Bill also took a step back at times. He would help mentor a variety of teams and they weren’t always the athletes you would expect either.

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Bill coaching the women’s basketball team at the Adult Aboriginal Education Department.

The Subiaco Police Boys Club were the first to give Bill a shot at coaching Aussie Rules Footy. Spending a decade at the helm with the U-16 and U-18 teams. Bill learned a lot about himself and leading others. Some of his players would move on to play league football, in part thanks to his coaching. After leaving Subiaco with his wife Nadine to live in the suburbs of Balga, Bill would continue his coaching with the local junior team, Westminister.

It wasn’t just men either. Bill would coach an able-bodied women’s basketball team while working in the Adult Aboriginal Education Department. He was approached by Mike George the head of the department at the time, and asked if he was willing to coach a basketball team of girls who were down from the north-west to complete their studies. Bill never one to say no, took up the offer; in part due to the 9 dollars an hour he was being payed. In the two years, the team put up a great effort, experiencing victory more than defeat, but never winning a championship. Bill also wanted to teach them something beyond just sports.

“I wanted them (my teams) to know that the disabled are just like regular people and just as capable.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Even when away from the field or court, Bill was often in recruitment mode, looking for promising talent. Never one to shy away from conversations, if Bill saw someone who showed interest or potential in sports, he would often act to persuade one to give it a “Mather-Brown go of it”. He is responsible for several Paralympic athletes joining the movement and it’s through acts like these that Bill Mather-Brown was able to become a hall of famer in the Wheelchair Sports WA Hall of Fame (now called Rebound WA).

Outside of Sports

The spinal unit that had given Bill his true love of sport in the form of wheelchair basketball, would also end up giving him his other love as well. During his time at The Unit, Bill would fraternize with several of the nurses, but being the sports obsessed young bloke he was, never looked to settle down. That changed when one morning while heading towards the hospital, Bill saw a beautiful young nurse walking in his direction.

In Bill’s attempt to flirt, he put up both his hands in a boxing pose as she approached him. Without so much as batting an eyelash, the young nurse, Nadine, gave him a good smack on the ear. Little did they know, that would be the beginning of a long loving and supportive marriage.

“Ha ha, I’m not sure what she thought of me the first time we met. When she saw me in my boxing pose, she was quick to give me a smack on the ear as she passed. She’s been a great wife.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Nadine being a trained nurse, would work with some paraplegic teams. She was fully supportive of Bill’s love of the game and the movement. They are still together to this day, fifty-five years after meeting for the first time. From their marriage they would bring their daughter Rebecca and son Ryan into the world.

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Bill and Nadine off on their honeymoon.

Bill’s other interests outside of sports include horse riding and poetry. Owning several horses in his life, the feeling of freedom and simultaneously control appeals to him. You can also find some of his poetry in his book The Fight in the Dog, his autobiography. Bill creates rhyming poetry that rolls off the tongue, many of which details his own life.

“Besides basketball, horseback riding in the second love of my life. I also enjoy writing poems as well. Trying to keep busy is important.”

— Bill Mather-Brown

Today Bill still resides in Western Australia. Most days you can find him spending time with his wife. He is still a part of the disabled sports community, and can sometimes be found at Rebound WA, the organization who helps provide support and opportunities to disabled athletes. If you’re interested in getting to know more about the Rebound WA, please follow the link down below.

If you wish to contact me, you can reach me at Shotarohmoore@hotmail.com

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine. https://www.junkturemagazine.com

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