The Untold Story Edition #1: Oscar Stubbs
In a brand-new series, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame will delve into the Untold Stories of our Members and Scholarship Holders. The first edition of The Untold Story features 2022 T3 Scholarship Holder, Oscar Stubbs.
Oscar was born in NSW in 2000 with optic neuropathy and congenital sensory nystagmus – an eye disorder which disturbs a person’s optic sensor and leaves them with limited, tunnel vision. He competes across many sports, most notably swimming, cricket and Blind AFL (AFLB). In 2022 Oscar was selected as part of the Australian swim team for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, made his debut for Australia and wore his baggy green in the Commonwealth Bank International Cricket Inclusion Series and was drafted to the Western Bulldogs ahead of the upcoming AFLB season.
These incredible achievements rank Oscar alongside some Australian sporting greats, including SAHOF Members Clem Hill, Laurie Nash, Vic Richardson OBE, and Legend of Australian Sport Keith Miller AM MBE who have played AFL/VFL football and represented Australia in Test cricket, as well as Michael Cleary AO (rugby league, rugby union & athletics) and Dick Thornett (league, union & water polo) as athletes to represent their country, or play at the highest level, in three separate sports.
Here is Oscar’s Untold Story…
Q. How did your sports journey begin?
A. My journey as an athlete began just like any other Aussie kid, my parents put me into sport to socialise and exercise.
They started my swimming lessons when I was about 2 years old and have always said that we live on an island so it was their responsibility to make sure I was safe around water. The joke used to be that when my brother and I could beat my dad in a 50m race then we didn’t need lessons anymore. I think we both had him covered quite a while ago!
I started playing soccer when I was in kindergarten with other kids from my class but I didn’t start playing cricket until I was about 10.
Every weekend was filled with sport and I’m grateful for the opportunities I was given because it allowed me to create some healthy habits and make lifelong friends.
Q. Has there been a significant reason for your interest in sport?
A. Sport began just as a social and healthy way to fill time although I have no doubt there was an aspect of burning off excess kid energy as well. I had always played able bodied sport just like all of my friends and didn’t transition into para-sport until I was about 17. My parents had always said to try whatever I wanted and set my own limits. If I couldn’t do something, that was ok, but being exposed to ‘normal’ sport probably allowed me to build my skills as an athlete as I had to adapt to playing with the same rules as everyone else even though my sight limited me.
Q. Do you play or have an interest in any other sports?
A. Sport is such a huge part of my life and when I’m not playing I’m usually watching some kind of sport on tv or getting to as many live matches as I can. Nothing beats going to live sport with your friends and family and being immersed in the atmosphere but I also watch as much sport on TV as my schedule allows. One day I want to be sitting in the crowd to watch Russell Westbrook play basketball but for now I watch as many of his games on TV as I can.
Q. When did you realise you were capable of playing three sports at the elite level?
A. My first opportunity to represent Australia was in 2018 when I was selected to swim at the Para Pan Pacs. Because I wasn’t internationally classified at that stage I wasn’t able to swim in the finals but being part of an Australian team and having the exposure to other athletes from around the world made me realise how much I wanted to wear the green and gold. I am thankful to Swimming Australia for having an elite athlete development program that allowed us to be part of such an incredible experience because that opportunity allowed me to believe I could one day be an Australian Dolphin.
Around the same time I was introduced to Blind Cricket and after a trial with the NSW Captain Lindsay Heaven, I was offered a spot in the NSW team. The Australian Blind Cricket team had already been picked just before that but someone thought I may have the potential to represent Australia in the future, so I was invited to come to the Australian training camps the team had before they left for Dubai for the World Cup. As soon as I was there, I knew that playing for Australia was something I needed to do. Knowing that I am now an Australian Dolphin and received my baggy green has made every sacrifice I’ve made worth it.
Q. Are there plans to take up another(!) sport?
A. I definitely have some plans in the pipeline regarding some other sports!
Q. What are your long term goals or ambitions?
A. This past year has been so great but I still have so much more to achieve. I had set the goal of representing Australia in three different sports and being selected for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the Australian Blind Cricket team has allowed me to reach that goal. We still have Australian Football trials coming up so making my third Australian touring team is something I am focused on, so is representing Australia at the IBSA games in Birmingham next year. Winning the BLV AFL Grand Final as part of the St Kilda team and being awarded Best and Fairest last season was unbelievable but this year I have been drafted to play with the Western Bulldogs so I want to play the game with the same attitude as last season and represent the Bulldogs as best I can. Winning is always a great feeling but being recognised as a fair and respectable athlete is an even greater achievement for me.
Goals are important to have something to focus on and I feel extremely privileged to be given the opportunities I’ve had, but the goal that is most important to me is to be able to set an example for kids growing up with a disability. If a child sees me with the Australian crest on my chest, I hope that makes them realise that anything is possible for them, that their disability doesn’t limit them from dreaming big and achieving great things.
Q. What are the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome with your optic neuropathy and congenital sensory nystagmus?
A. There are hurdles with every disability but for me, the important thing is to focus on what I can do and not what I can’t. When you get to a point that you can’t do something, focus on something that you can.
I can’t drive a car, but I can ride a bike.
I can’t read a book but I can read an iPad.
I can’t always track a ball but I can run fast when I know where it is.
It’s about adapting and being positive with the abilities you do have.
With life in general I think the hardest part of being legally blind is that the people around you often don’t realise you can’t see. Blindness can be an invisible disability because unless you have a physical difference or use a cane or have a guide dog you really blend in with everybody else. Because I don’t have any of these obvious signs I just look like every other person and quite often people have greater expectations of me simply because they don’t realise that I can’t see.
Q. Do you recognise the significance of your sporting achievements so far?
A. I could never consider myself in the same league as these incredible athletes because I’m just trying to be the best version of myself I can be and have fun along the way. I can’t imagine a life without sport and I love being part of a team so pursuing opportunities gives me a platform to show other people with a disability that anything is possible. I truly believe that sport makes the world a better place and being part of a team can completely change your life, so if I can encourage even one person to step outside their comfort zone and pick up a ball or go for a run or enter their first swimming race then my job is done.