Rae Anderson’s Dad had just two rules growing up: learn a musical instrument, and play a team sport.
Learn a musical instrument? Sure. But, while she threw herself into team sports such as football, the only avenue to reach the top level - that she could see - was individual sports.
She certainly succeeded at reaching that elite level. Anderson is only the seventh Australian dual summer and winter Paralympian. She competed at Rio 2016 in shot put and javelin, and Beijing 2022 in alpine skiing.
Despite her achievements, there was something missing for Anderson.
“Falling into individual sports to be able to compete at the Paralympics was a little bit of a challenge for me,” she explained. “I was so used to having a team. Certainly on athletics teams and alpine teams, you do have your teammates, but they are very much focused on themselves.
“Whereas this team, the vibe is so different. We look after each other so much… the camaraderie is really, really special.”
Anderson was part of the CommBank ParaMatildas team that competed at the IFCPF Women’s World Cup 2022 in Spain. It was a message from teammate Georgia Beikoff that alerted her to the possibility of playing football for her country.
As Beikoff explained it: “I was calling Rae Anderson… I was like mate, I think you told me one time you played football when you were about eight. I know you’re fit, did you want to give para football a go?”
Give it a go she did, and she never looked back.
“I wanted so badly as a kid to play for Australia,” Anderson recalled. “So to have this opportunity, to have the girls as part of this opportunity, [was special]. I think it was one thing to dream big to compete for Australia, but I never imagined that it would be with a team this special.”
Anderson has so far been substituted on for all three games at the IFCPF Asia Oceania Championships, meaning that if she is to make an appearance against Nepal on matchday four, it will be her tenth appearance in green and gold.
Playing the tournament on home soil is something that means a lot to Anderson.
“I have always wanted to compete on home soil,” she said. “To have Football Australia put on such a huge tournament with so much thought that’s going on behind the scenes is really, really special.”
Of course, this is just one tournament. Anderson hopes it can be a building block for bigger and better things – for football, for para football, and for para sport in general.
“This is just the start,” she emphasised. “We do have the Paralympics in 2032 again, it’s going to be on home soil. So I hope this is the start for us. We’ve seen how well the Matildas have done, and now the ParaMatildas are having our shot on home soil.”
“I look forward to seeing what we can do in this tournament, and getting ready for what’s to come in 2032.”
She had a message for the fans at home who are thinking about tuning in.
“I know why I love this team, and I think they should watch on SBS on Demand to see what’s so special."