Empowered by her children

COMPETITION: Jules Bramley in action in wheelchair tennis. PHOTO: NZDF.

Rolleston woman Jules Bramley will proudly represent her country in this year’s Invictus Games Sydney – and she’s doing it for her children.

The games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate understanding and respect for wounded, injured or ill current and former servicemen and women.

Mrs Bramley is part of the 25-strong New Zealand Defence team going to the Games. Husband Brett and children Austin, 12, and Jorja, 7 – who are both at Clearview Primary School – will be there to cheer her on.

“That’s the main reason I’m doing it, for them. I just want to show them that even though I am injured and I do have restrictions, there are things out there that I can still do, and I can still do well.

“I can really train for it just as much as you can for any other sport. It’s really showing them never to give up.

Mrs Bramley was an army medic for 21 years, serving in East Timor, Afghanistan and Samoa after the tsunami there. Over the years she badly injured her hips carrying heavy equipment on her back and now essentially has no cartilage left in her hips, leaving her with severely restricted movement in one leg.

She’s still with the NZDF, as a civilian, training medics that go through the NZDF – a move prompted by being unable to achieve the required military fitness due to her injuries.

“I haven’t been able to play sport, I can’t run, so it’s really restricted my life, really,” she said.

“The first time I got in the chair and played a really hard game of rugby, I walked off
feeling amazing – being able to play a game again and being able to play the full game and not having to stop,” Mrs Bramley said.

“I’ve been really restricted for quite a long time and just having the ability to show my kids that I can get out there and do stuff, even though it’s slightly adapted, it’s a great feeling.”

Mrs Bramley, who grew up in Rangiora and whose parents still live there, competed in the Invictus Games in Toronto last year and she’s hooked.

“It was amazing. Can’t explain it. Just eye-opening. It really made me realise that everyone’s got their own story. No matter what it is, everyone is there to do the same thing, achieve the same goals, whether it be rehabilitation or just learning to move on in their life and play sports again.”

She will this year compete in wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis doubles with fellow Rolleston woman Vanessa Bawden-Pere.

“We’ve been training really hard. We’ve got a great coach in Christchurch who takes us a couple of times a week. It’s been really good,” she said.

And while it would be great to bring home a medal, Mrs Bramley says that’s not what the Games are about.

“Just being part of a team again, and being part of the NZDF again. It’s just amazing.”