Big V Player Mark Bilyj, Represents Australia
Mark Bilyj, Hawthorn Magic Guard
My name is Mark Bilyj and I play for the Hawthorn Magic in the BigV Division One state league competition. I was born with a severe to profound hearing impairment (85% loss) and was first fitted with hearing aids at the age of 6 months. I have been playing basketball competitively since the age of 8 but before that, I often played basketball with my brother. Early on, playing with hearing aids on sometimes made me the target of some dirty plays so I occasionally played without them.
There has been a national deaf basketball team for many years now called the “Goannas” but I only found out about the program in 2005 when one of my friends told me about it. I contacted Deaf Basketball Australia for information regarding the next try-outs which were held in late 2006. Following the try-outs, I was selected to play for Goannas at the 2007 World Deaf Basketball Championships in Guangzhou, China. Our team only consisted of 8 players. Having already represented Australia back in 2007, I was already in the selection mix and was again selected for this year’s Goannas squad for the 2012 Asia Pacific Deaf Games.
On May 27th, the morning after being at my brother's wedding, I snatched 3 hours of sleep and then headed to the airport for a flight to Sydney. From Sydney, we then flew for 15 hours to Incheon in Seoul, Korea where the games would be played.
At the tournament, we would play Chinese Taipei, Japan and the host nation Korea. We were also supposed to come up against India, Hong Kong, China and The Philippines but costs prevented them from attending the tournament. Our group game results were as follows:
First match: Australia 88 - Japan 89
Second match: Australia 89 - Korea 25
Third match: Australia - 65 – Chinese Taipei 66
Unfortunately after those two narrowest of defeats, we missed out on the right to play for the gold medal and had to settle for a bronze medal game match-up with Korea where we had a convincing 81 – 35 victory. Although we didn't take home the much coveted gold, it was great to bring home a bronze medal as it was the first time an Australian Deaf men’s basketball team had won a medal.
It was an amazing experience to again represent Australia and also to see the massive city of Seoul where we did some sightseeing, food tasting, hit the local clubs/pubs/bars and did some shopping. We had great team spirit throughout the tournament and it was a great bonding experience which lays the foundations for a bright future for deaf basketball in Australia.
Now it’s back to Melbourne and back to business with the Hawthorn Magic. I hope to see you down at BSC supporting the Hawthorn Magic as we make a run towards the finals.
See you all then!