From Fiji to Australia, and back again

Following the remarkable announcement that Australian Blind Cricketer, Mark Haskett, will be returning to Fiji, his country of birth, to help promote Cricket Fiji’s Inclusive Cricket Program, Cricket Fiji chatted to Mark about his incredible story.

Mark, now 31, was adopted out of Nausori’s Dilkusha Children’s Home aged six.  Like most children, these early years can barely be recalled from memory, but for Mark this was not just due to his young age, but because he was seemingly trying to recall a different world.

Mark can remember living the typical life of a Fijian child though; going to school and attending church every Sunday.  Remarkably his two childhood pals that he used to play with at the orphanage – Chris and Joseph – have also since moved to Australia since their Dilkusha days.

Upon moving to Australia, Mark and his new family relocated to Mount Gambier, near the boarder of Victoria and South Australia, for his father’s work as a magistrate.  One of Mark’s earliest memories in Australia is being absolutely terrified of the crater-lake South Australia’s second-most populous city is renowned for.

“I was really scared of water and balled my eyes out because I was so petrified!” Mark recalled.

After a stint in Mount Gambier, the family returned to Adelaide, where Mark has lived ever since, besides a brief stint in Canberra when he was 18.

When it comes to cricket, Mark describes it as his passion.  Growing up like many Australian children, all he remembers doing after school, on weekends or during school holidays was playing cricket in the backyard or down at the local park with his brothers and cousins.

“One day I received an invitation to play Blind Cricket for the South Australian Blind Cricket Club,” Mark recalled.   “I attended a coaching clinic and then was asked to stay on play in a game that afternoon.”

Four weeks later he was selected to play for South Australia at the National Championships, and five years later he was selected to play for Australia.

Mark now boasts a career spanning 14 years, where he has received numerous accolades and experienced many triumphs – the most significant which he names as retuning the Blind Ashes urn (the Holy Grail of Blind Cricket just as it is in the mainstream form of the game) to Australia last year, after two previous unsuccessful campaigns.  Cricket has taken Mark to South Africa, England, Pakistan and India – however not yet back to Fiji.  Until now.

“For many years, I have wanted to come back to Fiji to see where it all began,” Mark told Cricket Fiji from his Adelaide home.  “(But) many distractions have taken this opportunity away (such as) cricket, work and studies. Now that I am little older and wiser, I feel this is the right time to get out and explore my past and really see it before the chance disappears.”

“Many of my friends have asked questions about why I haven’t gone back,” he continued.  “The thought was always there but (I) just never pursued the idea further.  Twenty-five years is too long without a visit.  Diconess Olivia (Mark’s foster carer from Dilkusha Children’s Home) is getting older…and I would regret it if I didn’t see her before she left.”

For Mark there are two facets to his visit to Fiji – promoting the game he loves, and establishing an insight into where his journey in life all began.

Reflecting on his impending visit, Mark said “I feel very excited but very nervous at the same time. I’m not sure what to expect but I do know that this is the time. I am ready to face it head on. Hopefully a memory or two may come back.”

During his visit Mark wants to help spread the message that cricket truly is the ultimate inclusive sport, through his involvement in Cricket Fiji’s Inclusive Cricket Roadshow and attendance at the Special Schools’ Family Gala Day.  He will also return to Dilkusha Children’s Home and visit the Fiji School for the Blind.

Mark would like to thank Paul Mason, Julie Stevens and Richard Waterhouse of State Swim for making his return to Fiji after 25 years possible.

Cricket Fiji would like to thank Ray Moxly of Blind Cricket Australia for helping us coordinate and secure State Swim’s sponsorship of Mark’s visit to Fiji.


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