Ryan Morich

Rolling with Ryan Morich

Ryan Morich is a founding member of the Red Dust Heelers – Wheeling and Healing Program and also Captain of the Red Dust Heelers Adelaide National Wheelchair Basketball Team. Outback Academy, Executive Director Clare O’Kelly says of Ryan – “Ryan has taken the leadership challenge very seriously. He has grown into the role to the point where he can now present to and hold the attention of an audience consisting of Aboriginal and business leaders. He is a great asset to the Wheeling and Healing program and of course an important member of the Red Dust Heelers leadership team. His willingness to push his personal boundaries has seen him take up fantastic opportunities in employment and international wheelchair basketball.”

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So where did you grow up?

Well I was born in Karratha in 94, but only spent a few years there, moving down to Perth to start pre-primary…short story only because I don’t remember much haha

For the most part your grew up with your family in Perth?

Yeah, well I lived with my mum, dad and brother up until high school. But since then it’s just become my mum and I… I owe a lot to my parents, my mum especially, amazing woman, she and my dad have made me who I am today and I thank them for it.

How did you lose your leg?

I lost my leg below the knee due to a rare bone cancer (Ewing’s Sarcoma) back when I was 12 years old. It was lucky actually, as I spent 2 years being misdiagnosed with severe growing pains and then a further 3 misdiagnoses in hospital with what the doctors though was a bone infection. So after 3 months and 7 surgeries, a new doctor found the tumor in my heel after an MRI scan.

And what brought you to play wheelchair basketball?

A few months after I lost my leg in hospital, Justin Eveson’s mum came and visited me in hospital and told me about wheelchair basketball and where Justin has gone with it… I went to my first training session maybe two or three weeks after that, and have been playing ball ever since.

While recovering in hospital, how were you feeling about having a life with one leg?

Pretty devastated to be honest, because I was always sporty beforehand. I was a sprinter in primary school, a sports captain and excelled at most sports, so having my leg amputated looked like it wouldn’t give me much option to continue with sport afterwards.

So, it must have been a relief to hear from Justin’s mum?

Yeah, Justin’s mum definitely made my hospital stay a bit happier, knowing that there was something I could move on to.

What’s some of your favorite things about playing wheelchair basketball?

I’d have to say the mateship, just because I know a whole bunch of new people, I’ve met people from all around the world who I can connect with socially….Also the fitness, I like maintaining my fitness. 97

Yes, you do take your fitness very seriously, what was that most recent purchase you made to help with that?

Oh! A training mask! Which you wear over your nose and mouth and it makes it harder for you to breath, so you’re basically working with less oxygen.

That’s pretty full on!

Pretty full on yeah haha

What have been some of your highlights since starting wheelchair basketball?

Definitely two things come to mind, one was going to Turkey and competing in the Under 23s World Championships with 11 other amazing dudes and winning bronze there, that was a huge highlight of my life. Also playing for the Red Dust Heelers. Moving to the Red Dust Heelers is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Why is that?

I think it can only take me further in basketball. So not only is it a personal move to a team where I can improve my game, but also I am representing my heritage as an Aboriginal player. Being a part of the Red Dust Heelers I have gained work through the Outback Academy’s connections and support. They helped me to put my name forward onto the Wharfs in Henderson, near Fremantle…Work started 3 or 4 months ago and I’ve been working there almost every day for the last 3 months.

So this job has helped you to save for something pretty special right?

Yes, I’ve managed to save probably half, if not more, of what I need for my trip to Alabama for 4 years as I’ve recently been given a scholarship to go play basketball with Jannik Blair, one of the Aussie Rollers and study over there for 4 years.

How does that feel to have this opportunity? – It’s something a handful of Australian wheelchair basketball athletes have done over the years and now you are the first Aboriginal Australian player to do the same – you’re making history!

It feels amazing, being able to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Coombs, being the first Aboriginal person to play wheelchair basketball at the Paralympics, and to be the first Aboriginal player to go and play over at an American college is just a great thing.

Are you planning on teaching your American team-mates a thing or two about Australia?

Oh several things! I can’t come away, without leaving something there.

What are you most excited for about attending the University of Alabama?

I’m looking forward to being able to play basketball every day. It’s something I haven’t been able to do much in Australia because of other commitments, family work…but over in Alabama I get to focus on study and focus on basketball.

What will a day look like for you at the University of Alabama?

It’d be training in the morning from 6 – 8 30am and then go to classes during the day and then study and do more of my own training sessions.

What do your friends and family think of this big move?

I imagine they are pretty torn…whilst my mum mostly is excited for me to be going, I think she is also a bit sad I’ll be going too, because it will be the longest time I’ve been away from home… I’m sure we will Skype every few days.

What’s your favourite motto/quote?

My philosophy is you can learn from your past, but you can’t live in it.

Outside of basketball, what do you like to get up to in your free time?

Well, my work roster is 13 days on, 1 day off, 12 hours a day, so that takes up most of my waking hours outside of basketball…but otherwise I am reading or messing around on my computer or seeing mates.

Dancing?

Dancing?! Oooh yeah why not? haha