Blackfriars old scholar Mark Haskett is serving up success on the international sporting circuit.
Just four years after taking up the sport, Haskett (BPS’01) is now Australia’s number one-ranked player – and third in the world – in blind tennis (B2 singles category).
Since taking up tennis in 2019, and representing Australia in Spain at the International Blind Tennis Tournament that year, Haskett, 40, has gone on to huge success on the national and international scenes.
Earlier this year, he won the Blind and Low Vision Victorian Open Championships. He was a finalist for Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability at the Tennis SA Awards and he won the B2 singles title at the Australian Championships in 2022.
His outstanding success in the sport has come after he captained South Australia, and represented Australia, in blind cricket.
Haskett, who has only 5% vision, started playing sport to keep up with his brothers – all of whom were also students at Blackfriars, as was his dad, Peter Haskett (BPS’63). His nephew, Seb, is currently in Year 5.
“I always loved my sport,” said Haskett, who came to Blackfriars as a Year 3 student in 1992.
“My brother Matthew (BPS’97) was the one that got me into sport. I always wanted to do what he did. I played water polo for school in Year 8, 9 and 10, but I had to drop it after that, because of the vision.
“I started running the boundary for footy. I couldn’t play, because I couldn’t see the ball, but I could run the boundary and, from there, I got into athletics.
“Sports days were funny because I never nominated for anything, but people would call out my name to do all the distance events; the 800m, the 1500m, I’d do them all!”
His introduction to cricket came after he attended a come and try session run by the South Australian Cricket Association.
“I was about 16 at the time. Mum said, ‘If you can be good for the week, you can go.’ So I was extra good!”
He started playing club cricket and was quickly picked for the state team.
“And then the Australian team and I made the Australian team for the Ashes in 2004,” he said. “I travelled the world with cricket. Won the Ashes series, made the World Cup finals. That was a pretty surreal experience.”
As he got a bit older, the physical demands of cricket started to take a toll. It was his fiancée who suggested he give tennis a go.
Next month, he heads to the International Blind Sports Federation World Games, in Birmingham.
Alongside his tennis commitments, Haskett is a dad and a primary school teacher.
“Blackfriars gave me that opportunity (to become a teacher),” said Haskett, who won an “Outstanding Participation in the Life of the School” award in Year 12. “I remember saying to (former Blackfriars teachers) Rita Purvis and Fiona Wald that I wanted to be a PE teacher, and they made sure I could get there.”
And while at age 40, he could be forgiven for thinking about retiring from competitive sport, he has no plan to hang up the racquet just yet, his son his motivation to continue on the court.
“I want him (my son) to be able to see what I am doing,” Haskett said. “I want him to know that just because his dad is blind, it doesn’t mean I can’t achieve. I just love being out there, playing with him.”
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