“Give cricket a go, it’s life-changing for kids,” is the message from Paula Knapp, the proud mother of 9-year-old, Liam Knapp who has 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome but is thriving during his fourth season of cricket.

Liam, who is playing Stage 1 Junior Cricket at Bowral CC was introduced to the sport by his cousins who play first grade in the Southern Highlands. This awareness developed into hours of fun in the backyard before registering for Woolworths Cricket Blast – Master Blasters at age six.

“He just loves everything about cricket and is so enthusiastic about trying everything. He wants to do the wicketkeeping, he loves fielding, and he is now trying his hand at spin bowling – he loves everything about it (cricket),” explained Paula.

It wasn’t until Liam was three years of age that his condition was diagnosed and since then, he has undergone nine different operations on his ears, nose, and throat with many more on the cards as his body grows.

Whilst Liam has a moderate hearing impairment in both ears, his challenges don’t define him nor hold him back, with the family using his love of cricket to further drive his development.

“Years ago, Liam was nonverbal but through twice a week speech therapy over a number of years, he is now able to communicate quite well.

“We actually use speech therapy as a motivation for his cricket, because as we tell him, ‘a wicketkeeper needs to tell his fielders what end to throw the ball’.

Rarely a Saturday goes by that Liam’s Cheer Squad of Paula, husband Wayne, sister Sophie and grandparents, Michael and Helen Hyland aren’t supporting the highly regarded youngster from the boundary.

“I actually wasn’t ready to be a cricket mum but it’s thrilling, I love it. I can’t get there (the cricket ground) quick enough. Seeing him so happy has had such a huge impact on the whole family.”

Liam plays for “The Cheatles” – named after the Sydney Sixers and NSW Breakers star also from Bowral, Lauren Cheatle – and has been coached by both David McDonald and Conor Murray, who Paula credits for creating such a wonderful environment.

“Everyone is made to feel welcome in the team. The coaches have done a beautiful job to include everyone, irrespective of their ability.

“Liam’s confidence when talking to his fellow teammates and those teammates listening to him – and his knows they are listening to him – has been amazing. We’ve seen a huge transformation in Liam because of his involvement in cricket,” concluded Paula.

December 3 is International Day of People with Disability and Paula’s advice to any parent or guardian in a similar situation is to give a team sport like cricket a go, as it’s been “life-changing” for her son and the wider family.

22q Foundation Australia & New Zealand has been established to inform, educate, and raise awareness of 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome and provide basic information on other 22q related conditions.