Shirley Mathers, who was in Matilda at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth games opening ceremony, holds a joey’s costume from the event.
Shirley Mathers, who was in Matilda at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth games opening ceremony, holds a joey’s costume from the event. Kara Paradies

Matilda is Shirley's old friend

DESPITE their 35-foot height difference, Rockhampton's Shirley Mathers and Matilda the kangaroo are old friends.

It's been a while since they last saw each other, but the two have a history.

Shirley was one of eight Rockhampton people to take part in the 1982 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Brisbane.

Her job, to usher 20 bouncy children dressed as baby joeys out of the giant mascot's pouch.

The memories came flooding back for Shirley this week, with the announcement of the 2018 games to be held at the Gold Coast.

Nearly 30 years on, she still remembers waiting anxiously inside Matilda.

"I couldn't see the crowd, but I could hear it. The feeling and atmosphere was incredible. It was blowing on the day so Matilda started to rock a bit which was scary but the experience was something I'll never forget," she said.

Tricia Jenkins, Gaylene Taylor and Kelly Doble, all of who were less than 10 years old at the time, were chosen to represent the Rockhampton Trampoline Association in the ceremony, which included the joeys performing backflips on small trampolines.

The winking Matilda and her joeys jumped into the hearts of millions of viewers across the country.

Shirley said the organisation of the event was amazing and after months of secret training and rehearsals the children performed brilliantly.

"We had to keep it a secret which was very hard for the kids, but it added to the thrill of being involved," she said.

Matilda now has a home in Gympie, sitting behind the Kybong Matilda truck stop.

But Shirley hopes her old friend can make a comeback in 2018.

"Even if she's not in the ceremony, it would be lovely to have her somewhere at the Games," she said.

The joey costume pictured with Shirley is courtesy of Gaylene Taylor.



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