Major award for Tickle
IT was a pleasant coincidence for an extremely proud mother.
When Desiree Tickle accepted the senior sportsperson's award for her son Matthew yesterday at the Lismore City Council Australia Day awards it could not have come from a more appropriate person.
Tickle won the award on the back of a spectacular 2011, winning the senior NSW, Australian Open, National Heavyweight and the Commonwealth karate champion titles.
Amazingly he did all this after breaking his neck in three places following an awkward tackle while playing for Lismore City's under-19 rugby union team in June, 2008.
But yesterday's ceremony had extra meaning for Desiree because of the person who presented the award.
"I accepted Matt's award from (the president of the International Surf Life Saving association) Alan Whelpton who was instrumental in getting rescue helicopters going in Australia," Desiree said.
"I thought that was great because Matt was flown to Brisbane in one of those helicopters after his injury."
Tickle is currently in Canada on a well-earned holiday after everything he endured following his horror neck injury.
The 22-year-old had to wear a halo brace around his head for six weeks and was strapped to the couch following his accident where two screws each were inserted in the front and back of his head.
The fact Tickle then went on to win such prestigious titles last year after his horrific injury baffled his coach Dean Marshall, who also picked up the Lismore junior sportsperson of the year award in 1994.
"For anyone to do what Matt has done is amazing but he did it after a neck injury which was as serious as it gets," he said.
"He spent many hours in rehab and could only do light training for 12 months afterwards.
"But the thing with Matt is he doesn't identify himself as an injured athlete."
Tickle lives a busy lifestyle - he recently completed a business degree in marketing and sports management at Southern Cross University and worked full-time at St Vincent's Hospital leading up to his trip to Canada.
That is why life was so hard for him following that awkward tackle on the rugby paddock.
"He had to sit on the couch after his accident but he never complained," Desiree said.
"He's always had a steely determination."
That determination will serve him well leading up to his next major event - the World Senior Championships in Paris from November 21- 25.
"No-one works as hard as Matthew does," Marshall said.
"He'll be aiming for a medal in France.
"He's very fit for a heavyweight and he can definitely make a career out of martial arts."