Imagine yourself standing in front of a packed room. You have a scar on your face, speak with a lisp, know you struggle to pronounce some words, but still have to address the masses.

The world can be a cruel place with hecklers, bullies and people willing you to fail. It takes courage and strength of character to tackle those challenges and defy the little voice in the back of your head which could turn you into a blithering mess.

Most people avoid it. Research lists of phobias and you’ll always find the fear of public speaking near the top.

But Fremantle star Chris Mayne is different. Born with a cleft lip and palate, a defect which leaves an abnormal gap in the upper lip and the roof of the mouth, Mayne endured numerous operations and years of speech therapy to rectify the problem.

But instead of hiding from the spotlight as an adult, the 22-year-old has embraced it.

Mayne does volunteer work with the Starlight Foundation helping sick children at Princess Margaret Hospital where he spent so many hours when he was growing up.

He hosts a weekly interview segment on Fremantle’s website, talking to the club’s younger players as a way of connecting them with the fans. He’s also just been added to the club’s leadership group. All require a significant amount of public speaking.

Mayne said his father Stephen’s police work taught him that a strong public persona would help him overcome obstacles.

“I’m happy to talk to people and happy to put my hand up for anything and give myself a challenge,” Mayne said.

“When I was young, I was a ratbag and that helped me to talk. I didn’t get things right all the time but I just kept sticking at it. I always had mum and dad behind me if I got upset or if something didn’t go the way I wanted it to.

“I couldn’t say certain words. I still struggle. It’s just about having a crack. At that age I did all of those (speech) classes and just had to keep going no matter what hurdles I had to face.

“I hear myself every now and then on TV. I still know I have a lisp. I can’t hear it when I speak but I hate hearing my own voice. But that’s good because I get to put myself into situations where I can practice public speaking to feel comfortable about it.”

Mayne’s development is obvious. Confident and articulate, he stops himself just once throughout a 25-minute interview after stumbling through the words “law chambers” when discussing his mother Leanne’s job. But Mayne simply repeats the words until he says them properly.

But the cleft lip and palate didn’t only provide him with mental challenges. There was also physical torment because of surgery.

“There were a lot of operations when I was a baby and when I was older,” Mayne said.

“The one in Year 7 is the major one. That’s a bit daunting. It’s the first time you understand that you’re being put to sleep so they can do what they have to do. It’s a bone graft from the hip to your gum to enhance growth of your gum and the structure of your teeth.

“You’re in hospital for two or three days after recovering. I had braces straight after which didn’t help going into school.

“Braces weren’t good for playing sport. You had to wear a weird mouthguard that was double-sided and you couldn’t really breathe. One day I took it out and copped a footy in the chops and my braces tore my gums apart. I got them off in Year 8 and then I had to wear a plate for the next three years.”

Mayne speaks fondly of the support from his parents and friends throughout his adolescence. His disdain for people who enjoy others’ misfortune is also clear.

“I despise bullying,” he says.

And he’ll never forget what it’s like to be less fortunate. That’s why he is passionate about the Starlight Foundation and is considering shaving his curly locks for charity.

Throughout everything, sport has been a constant companion. Both Stephen and Leanne were talented athletes and Mayne was a regular at his dad’s cricket club, creating havoc around the change rooms.

He later played State junior cricket before focusing on football, but keeps a close eye on his former teammates at district level.

Overlooked for State under-age squads as a footballer, Mayne had a breakout year as a 19-year-old and that resulted in him getting drafted.

Now, starting his fourth year on the list, he has enjoyed his best pre-season and will hold a major role alongside noted leaders Matthew Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands as he mentors players in the club’s academy.

Coach Mark Harvey said Mayne had proved himself in so many ways around the club and his ability to lead and inspire was obvious.

“He’s a quality person and is branded and respected for the way he goes about his training and the way he plays,” Harvey said.

“With leadership comes confidence and the stature that you have on the ground. We’d like to think that somewhere down the line he can hold the fort if we run into some injury troubles with our established leaders.”

Source Link