How sport has helped our home-grown heroes on the road to recovery

The fighting spirit of our servicemen and women will be on display at the Invictus Games in Sydney.

They’re the courageous Defence personnel who have served our country, and now they will once again represent our nation at the Invictus Games.

The Invictus Games, an international multi-sport competition, were founded in 2014 by Prince Harry for former and serving personnel who have been injured, wounded or become ill during their time in military service.

More than 500 competitors from 18 nations will compete in Sydney in adaptive sports such as sitting volleyball, archery, athletics and wheelchair rugby.

Corporal Sonya Newman, 38, from Darwin, will compete in the Invictus Games again after representing Australia last year in Toronto.

The mother of two had an above-knee amputation in 2016 due to infection caused by a complication from surgery.

“There are a lot of things I can’t do easily, but with adaptive sports everyone’s on a level playing field,” Sonya says.

She will compete in wheelchair basketball, indoor rowing, sitting volleyball and swimming.

“The Games have given me focus by taking my mind off my injury,” Sonya says. “Training helps me to cope on a daily basis.”

Prince Harry will attend the Sydney Games with wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

Ahead of the Games, we talk to other competitors, who both served in the Australian Army, about how sport and the Games have aided their recovery.

Craig McGrath, 45

Craig McGrath from the Blue Mountains, NSW, joined the army in 1995 and served 23 years before being medically discharged earlier this year.

His service included two tours of Afghanistan in 2005 and 2012.

Craig McGrath can remember every minute of the moment his life changed irrevocably in Afghanistan.

The Special Forces operator was on his second deployment to the Middle Eastern nation when an improvised explosive device detonated, injuring him and four other comrades in 2012.

Craig sustained significant shrapnel wounds and broken bones and needed several surgeries in Afghanistan before he could be moved to an American military hospital in Germany.

Eventually flown back to Australia weeks later, Craig’s recovery and rehabilitation was arduous and he had to learn how to walk again.

“Getting back to a normal military basic fitness level was what I was aiming for,” Craig says.

“However, I can’t run anymore, as I do more damage when I run because there is still shrapnel in me that they couldn’t remove.”

Unable to return to the job he had loved or a lot of the sports he had enjoyed playing, such as rugby, the father of two found a new challenge competing at Invictus Games Orlando 2016 in cycling and archery.

This year he will compete in sailing.

“The Invictus Games is a goal that helps motivate,” Craig says.

“When sailing was announced for these Games it was a no-brainer to have another go at them. Finding something new has been fantastic.”

Craig also praises how the Invictus Games honours not only Defence Force personnel, but their families. By his side when he competes will be wife Jodie and their two sons, Lachlan, 15, and Thomas, 12.

“They never get the recognition they deserve but they put up with a hell of a lot,” he says. “This is a really good opportunity for us to show them how much we appreciate them.”

Garry Robinson, 45

The Invictus Games Sydney 2018 runs from October 20-27. To buy tickets or to donate visit

Written by Erin Miller. Photos by Aaron Curran and Jayson Tufrey.