Matt’s story rings a Bell at St Clair

Every week thousands of St Clair Recreation Centre (SCRC) patrons benefit from the efforts of staff who ensure the highest standards of facility cleanliness and presentation are maintained. Among that dedicated team is Matt Bell who has overcome the challenges of disability to become a source of inspiration at the centre.

Matt, 35, lives with an intellectual disability and hearing impairment but does not let those issues get in the way of life. He is not only a dedicated and valued cleaning staff team member but also a SCRC gym member and keen sportsman, specifically a cricketer.

It was his keenness to be the best he could that drove Matt to join the SCRC gym in 2022, where he undertook the YMCA South Australia Enable All program.

Funded by AusActive, the free, 12-week program ran between August and November focussing on accessible gym usage and education around health and fitness. Each participant was provided with their own health and fitness program and guided by fully qualified fitness professionals.

“I decided to try to get a bit more active and fitter and joined the gym. It’s a program that has its own levels and a big range of exercises. You work out what you can and can’t do and I was lucky I could do most of the workouts,” he said.

“I still go to the gym casually whenever I’m able to - it’s good to stay involved and active.”

Away from SCRC Matt has always been keen on sport. He played football, winning four premierships in a row with great mates at Eastern Park, before a knee injury forced his retirement. However, his passion for both indoor and outdoor cricket has never waned. It has included top-level success and continues to dominate his current sporting endeavours.

“I have been back playing outdoor cricket for a few years after having a break and am listed as an all-rounder. I have been involved ever since I was young playing school cricket. This season I have started playing club cricket for an amazing team called Adelaide Lutheran,” he said.

“I’ve played indoor cricket since 2006 and have represented South Australia in the ID team since 2009, winning the title in 2017 and 2022 and named as an All-Australian team member three times. I currently play social indoor cricket at Morphett Vale ICA on Thursday nights and occasionally down at Brahma lodge.”

Matt is now involved as a committee member in the formation of a new team, the Northern Mavericks, which will play in the Big Blast Indoor (BBI) Super League out of Modbury ICA, to be known as Arena 42 when it opens soon. The Northern Mavericks will replace BBI team The Salisbury Bulls with which Matt has played since 2017.

“I’m really looking forward to it beginning. There’s still work to be done but it’s rewarding, and being involved, you get a say in it and how the new team is formed and gets going,” said Matt.

“I will play until my body stops me I suppose,” he laughed. “I love it and I’ve got good mates I play with.”

Matt said he is grateful to the YMCA at St Clair for giving him the opportunity to work in such a positive environment surrounded by great people. St Clair Recreation Centre Manager, Tristan Owen, said Matt was an asset to the centre and a great example to all.

“He has a great work ethic, will do anything you ask of him and takes a lot of pride in the centre and the work he does,” he said.

“He’s always friendly, his communication is now really good and he will come to management if he has any issues. In the last 12 months we have worked hard on doing more group activities and Matt attends every event.”