App’s Australian athletes show strength during time of need

Zack Antrum, Senior Reporter

The international population at App State includes a handful of student-athletes who hail from Australia, and while they may be safe from the impacts of this year’s extreme fire season, they understand the seriousness of what’s happening in their homeland. 

“It’s just devastating to see everyone on the East Coast, and really everywhere around Australia being affected by all the fires,” said Nicola Mathews, a guard on the women’s basketball team.

Football punter Xavier Subsotch, field hockey forward Chloe Bell and men’s tennis player Alex Pavkovich also all hail from Down Under. Men’s tennis graduate assistant Jack Maddocks is also from Australia.  

To the outside world, the country of Australia is often portrayed as a place with beautiful scenery, exotic plants and animals, and a unique culture that makes it one of the most desirable tourist spots in the world.

Many natives of Australia would more than likely agree, but right now, they have much deeper concerns.

Since the turn of the new year, Australians have suffered from devastating effects caused by massive wildfires throughout their country. 

The fires have forced thousands of people to relocate, killed 25 people and over 1 billion animals, and damaged over 25 million acres of land. 

Australia’s fire season runs through February, and the fires are expected to continue for at least another four weeks.

The effects of the fires have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. Awareness has spread across social media platforms by many people, and well-known figures such as Elton John, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman have donated to the cause.

“I think that it’s already very globally aware, and everybody already knows about it,” Pavkovich said. “The more funds that get sent over there and the more water will help the animals and people over there.” 

People have donated millions of dollars and several countries have sent emergency workers to help put out fires and help those in need. 

Bush fires are common during this time of the year in Australia, but it’s unheard of for them to reach this level.

“When the dry lightning hits a bit of green, everything goes up, and then it doesn’t rain for a while. All of a sudden, there’s a bush fire that’s the size of however big,” Subsotch said. “It’s well known that bushfire season happens every so often, but this one is just massive.”

Luckily, the friends and families of these athletes are safe, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t concerned about the fates of their country and its inhabitants. 

“No one that I know has really been affected that much, but there’s still a lot of nature and wildlife (being impacted),” Mathews said. 

This sentiment is shared by her fellow Australian athletes, who are immensely proud of the place they call home. To them, Australia is a beautiful place with attractions that can only truly be experienced firsthand. 

“For me, it’s just the fact that it’s home. There’s a real mateship there,” Bell said. “I’m from a (place) that’s called the Bush Capital, and we have a lot of bushland, and it’s really nice, and everyone is really friendly.”

Even though their homeland is going through a hard time, they remain positive and have faith that Australia can overcome its current struggles.

“I think it’s good that they’ve got a lot of media coverage over the past month or so; they’re raising funds and helping out, which is good,” Maddocks said. “I think the good thing (about) Australians is that they stick together.”

No matter what kind of damage the fires do across Australia, it will never come close to burning out the pride and spirit that these athletes, and the millions of people in their homeland exhibit.