Only 60 players had been a part of the exclusive club of CommBank Pararoos before the IFCPF Asia Oceania Championships.
Two more have been added to their number since – cap number 61, Christian Bitsikas, and cap number 62, Joshua Beekes.
The debutants spoke about their pride in representing the green and gold, and debuting in front of friends and family in their home state.
“It’s definitely been a journey,” Beekes explained, who debuted against India on Thursday. “It’s something pretty special, and we were both really looking forward to it.”
“It was a lot of fun, a great experience,” Bitsikas agreed. His debut came earlier, against finalists Iran on matchday two.
“It was something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time – play for my country. So to have the opportunity to do that, here in Melbourne, in front of friends and family, was a great experience.”
Both players are from Victoria, and have played alongside each other for many years at the National Para Football Championships. Having the opportunity to play for Australia for the first time in front of friends and family was a special moment for both of them.
“It’s definitely a great feeling to play in front of a lot of friends and family, who probably wouldn’t have otherwise been able to come and watch,” Bitsikas said.
Beekes concurred. Currently living in Geelong and Bendigo-raised, Melbourne isn’t quite home for him - but playing at the Home of the Matildas meant that his support network did not have to travel too far to see him play.
“Even when we played in Sydney at the start of the year against the US – I mean, it’s great,” he said. “That was a home game, but this makes it even more special that it’s in our home state.”
Not only did both players debut in the tournament, they also scored both scored their first goals in green and gold against India.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling, scoring in what is your first few games,” Bitsikas expressed. “Some people obviously don’t get that opportunity. So to get it done pretty early is a great feeling.”
Looking ahead to the final, the newest players in the CommBank Pararoos are confident that the team can get the job done against world no3 Iran.
“We showed Iran and everyone else at the tournament that we have a really good chance of winning this whole thing,” Beekes said, when asked what he was most looking forward to. “We did lose to them earlier in the tournament 3-1, but we put away our first goal against them. So I believe that we can really go all the way and end up with a really good result.”
“It’s definitely a building block,” continued Bitsikas. “That was the first time we’ve ever scored against Iran so I think it gives us belief and confidence we can do it again.”
Both players finished with a message to the Australian footballing public ahead of the final against Iran.
“Just get down and come and support us,” Bitsikas said. “Support is greatly appreciated.”
“Definitely get down, get behind us and the rest of the guys and really show your support,” Beekes expressed.
“We’ll definitely be able to do it with all of the support that we get.”