Mark Bilyj, decked out in the famous green and gold, made his way into the Atrium for the first time today. For the Old Paradian, now captain of the Australian Goannas Deaf Basketball Team, this was a welcome opportunity.
Eleven years ago, in what was Mark’s final year as a student at Parade’s Bundoora campus, the Atrium (and indeed College Hall) was still under construction.
“It’s great to be back, first time since 2003,” Mark said. “I think this hall might have been completed in May or June 2004 and I have to say it looks pretty good.”
Extremely grateful to Parade College for the opportunity to access the facility, Mark and fellow members of the team worked out on the court in the Atrium in the lead-up to this weekend’s Big V Pre-Season Tournament in Dandenong, with the Deaflympics themselves pencilled in for late July in Turkey.
Now in his eighth year as Goannas Captain, Mark reckons he’s delivered on the brief. “The captaincy is all about management of the team, keeping open dialogue with the coach, keeping the players happy, and generally maintaining a communication and understanding with them both on and off the court,” Mark said.
“I’ve been able to draw on the experiences of the past and I believe I’ve been able to work in closely with the coach to help the boys.”
Under Phil Ashworth’s watch, basketball was always at the forefront of Mark’s thinking through his years at Parade (9 to 12) – happy years for him as he followed in the footsteps of his older brother Jason.
Profoundly deaf from birth, Mark was forced to regularly traverse from the family home in Greensborough to Ringwood, where support services were available to those with deafness.
But the daily grind forced a rethink for Mark.
“I got tired of the early morning travelling,” he conceded, “and as my older brother Jason was at this school as well as a lot of my local basketball and football friends, I thought ‘I’d like to come to Parade’ and I took on the challenge”.
At Parade, Mark benefitted enormously from one-on-one teaching, much of it after school hours. Today, while he might sometimes struggle with telephone conversation, he doesn’t have a problem. This interview, for example, was completed face-to-face without hitch, and Mark, now a full-time financial officer with the National Australia Bank, can revert to sign language whenever circumstance demands.
Though it’s been more than a decade since Mark last set foot in the Bundoora campus, it only seems like yesterday he was part of the student fraternity as an honored member of Treacy House.
As he said: “I had a great time at Parade. I made good friends, still see them from time to time, and when that happens it’s as if none of us had ever left.”