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25 September, 2020

Massive Lions fan

Young 14 year old Cairns boy Joshua Morris loves his AFL and his team is the Brisbane Lions. So when they came to town recently to play the Sydney Swans he was as excited as any other teenager would have been and just had to get to the game.

By Brad Sinclair

The Lions have a very big following in the Far North, so getting tickets for the big game was always going to be a challenge. The Manunda Hawks junior president Jason Miller put out an SOS to anyone and everyone to try and find two tickets so Joshua and his sister Bec Kloft could attend the game. 

 Now, young Joshua has Down Syndrome and earlier in the year asked his big sister Bec, who is his legal guardian, if he could play AFL. 

 So she took him down to Cazalys Stadium to play with the Manunda Hawks and he has been hooked ever since. He is there every Saturday watching his sister play in the women’s team and then stays on to watch the men, before playing on the Sunday in the under 14 competition. 

 Down Syndrome has always made it difficult for Joshua with regards to his balance but since starting AFL that has improved dramatically. “He has a disability, but he is not his disability,” is the way Bec describes the journey. “Since he started playing the game, his confidence, balance and self esteem has improved massively.” 

 “He just loves all sport, always watching the NRL & AFL on television.” 

 Whenever there is a game of NRL on the television he barracks hard for either the Brisbane Broncos or Melbourne Storm but AFL is where his true passion lies. 

 He’s not too bad at athletics either and has performed well in the state championships in the 100metre sprint, Shot Put, Javelin & Discus and was a baton bearer in the 2012 Brisbane Commonwealth Games. 

 When I noticed there was a call out for tickets for him and Bec to get to the Brisbane v Sydney game, I just thought that in my role in the media I have to be able to help out in some way. 

 Jason Miller had been successful in obtaining the two tickets through the Swans and it was all set, Joshua and Bec were going to the big game. I contacted the Brisbane Lions media manager to see if there was any chance that I could get a photo of Chris Fagan with the young man when I was down at the press conference. 

 I knew this was always going to be difficult due to the Covid situation, but made the contact none the less. The media manager told me that he’d be happy to work that out if I could get clearance from the AFL. Unfortunately that clearance was never given, but I still asked Bec & Josh to meet me after the game and I would see if I could get Josh in to the area in the back of the room and he could at the very least see the coach talk at his aftermatch press conference. 

When we got to the front door of the press conference there were no security or AFL staff at the door to ask if this would be possible, so I just walked them in and asked them to sit at the back of the room which they did. Minutes later a security guard approached me and asked me if I had a media pass, which I had displayed around my neck and answered yes. 

He then asked, “what about these two,” and I then told him no they haven’t, I brought them through as there was no one on the door to ask and he said they would have to leave, which they duly did without question. 

 Young Josh was visibly upset, but once his sister explained the situation, he was fine and was just so happy to be at the game and see his side have a great win. There have been some people come out since with great exaggeration about the incident and that’s ok as I understand that makes some people relevant, but surely we don’t live in a world now that we can’t help or attempt to make a dream come true type of situation for a young, sports mad fan. 

 I was subsequently banned, along with two colleagues, from entering the following weeks press conference after the Western Bulldogs v Fremantle game. One of those colleagues was not even at the previous weeks’ game due to covering the Gold Coast v Collingwood game in Brisbane. 

 Would I attempt what I tried again? You bet I would! So in my role as the senior coach of the Manunda Hawks there is another way to achieve this. This Saturday, Josh will lead the senior team out in the game against North Cairns and he will accompany captain Elia Ware for the coin toss at the start of the game. In the event that the Hawks win, Josh will lead the boys in the aftermatch victory song. 

 This game has the ability to create great moments, I can promise you this Josh, this moment will not be taken away from you!

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