opinion

Northampton Football Club award its best club person/supporter honour to autistic man Sam Harris

Clara HarrisGeraldton Guardian
Northampton’s best club person Sam Harris.
Camera IconNorthampton’s best club person Sam Harris. Credit: Barry Mitchell/Snapaction

The Northampton Football Club handed out a unique award at its 2021 end-of-season dinner last weekend. The recipient of the best club person/supporter award went to 21-year-old autistic man Sam Harris. His mother Clara accepted his award and shared this moving speech with the audience about her son, and the Rams’ biggest fan.

Thank you. It is my honour to speak on Sam’s behalf.

Part of the very being of Sam Harris, the fact that he is autistic, means that he’s not here tonight. He’s on a respite weekend — planned so that (husband) Damian, (daughter) Soph and I can be here. Sam hardly misses a game of footy, but he couldn’t handle coming tonight because it’s not a game of footy. It’s too different.

It never ceases to amaze me how a man who does not speak, who has no words, who can’t do so many of the things that most of us take for granted as simple everyday life stuff, shows us time and time again, about acceptance and how to be a good human — a best club person, even.

Sam accepts people as they are — not who they are, or what they say they’re going to do, or what their career is, or how much money they have.

If you’re good to Sam, he’s good to you — it’s simple.

A few years ago, when Damian was looking where he could take Sam, for them to hang out together in a safe place, with good people, he found himself back at his old footy club. And you know what happened next — a few years later, Damian is president and Sam’s barely missed a game.

Sam Harris with Rams players. Pic: Barry Mitchell /Snapaction
Camera IconSam Harris with Rams players. Pic: Barry Mitchell /Snapaction

Damian can’t wear his footy shirt anywhere other than games or Sam will jump up, put his on and want to go wherever he is going. And the irony of it being a wonderful place for Sam to be, without him actually being able to join in to play footy, has never been lost on us, and it’s often felt with sadness for the big tough guy who stands up alongside you all.

So, this year when that Ressies’ scratch match game happened, and they ended up on the field together and Sam kicked two goals! Monumental!

It never ceases to amaze me how a man who does not speak, who has no words, who can’t do so many of the things that most of us take for granted ... shows us time and time again, about acceptance and how to be a good human — a best club person even.

You rarely see me at footy, because if I am here, Sam can’t be. A part of Sam’s autism is sensory overload. He takes in every sight, sound, smell, a bump from a person moving through the crowd, and he also takes on some other people’s emotions too — it’s a real energy thing.

And in all aspects of his life, I am his soft place to fall — if he is feeling overwhelmed, he will release it on me and need me to take him home. So, if I am not here, Sam will manage the overload himself — that’s where he’ll retreat a bit to sit down with his chips and drink.

Or you’ll see him standing up, really obviously physically stretching out, and he’ll flick his hands and flap his arms and run around to reset.

So, I know many of you well, some a little bit, and some of you not at all, so please introduce yourself to me, and know that we appreciate all that you give to our family.

Sam Harris with sister Sophie, father Damian and mother Clara.
Camera IconSam Harris with sister Sophie, father Damian and mother Clara. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

One of the things I love about Sam’s love of footy is that he celebrates every goal — regardless of the team who kicked it. Ask Gouldy about the time he was sitting in the car with Sam at Rovers, and he tooted the horn for a goal kicked by Rovers!

He soaks up the beautiful family environment of this amazing country footy club, eating the best hot chips, cuddling your babies, and simply showing up, happy to see everyone here. Our beautiful man teaches us so much, every single day.

Damian and I would like to acknowledge Sam’s sister Sophie, who you all know from the gate and around the club, to join in with this recognition, because her life has to revolve around Sam’s too and because we know she is so much more than Damo’s daughter and Sambo’s sister. We are all very proud to be part of the Rams family and thank you for this honour for Sam.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails