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Neighbours ends with disabled cast member

oli pizzey stratford
oli pizzey stratford Image credit: stmichaels.vic.edu.au

For 37 years millions of us have followed the goings ons in Ramsey Street, but this week Neighbours bows out with a ninety minute finale.

But towards the end of its run the Ozzie soap broke new ground introducing its first wheelchair user cast member, Oli Pizzey-Statford.

When the actor was first announced to join Neighbours in May he celebrated by posting a message on his Instagram account.

At the time Pizzey-Statford said: 'To be the first actor in a wheelchair with a disability to hit Erinsborough, is honestly something that I couldn't even have dreamed of and I'm so proud and excited that it's come to life.'

'Growing up, I never saw someone like me on TV,’ he went on to say.

'The thought that there might be one young person who sees me, and feels they can be an actor because they saw someone like them doing it, is truly bigger than any role I get.'

Pizzey-Stratford first appeared in Neighbours on May 12.

His road to Ramsey Street started by modelling for various companies such as NBL and Channel 7 following his first TV role in The Legend of Burnout Barry - aired in Australia.

But it’s not just the camera which Oli has a special connection with, now he has left Neighbours he has set his sights on a certain sporting event taking place in a couple of years time.

“I have always dreamed of representing Australia at the Paralympic Games and I have Paris 2024 firmly in my sights,” he wrote on the Push Thru website. 

“My plan is to represent Australia in Tennis, and or Athletics 100 and 200 metre sprints and if things get really desperate I’m prepared to play table tennis!”

This isn’t a Kylie and Jason thing, Oli is not using the soap for a springboard to a new career, at the age of 15 he always dreamt of playing in the games.

Born with spinal injuries his parents were told their son would be lucky to live, let alone star in one of the world’s most popular soaps.

Defying the odds Pizzey-Stratford embarked on a three-day training camp for the Canberra Wheelchair Tennis Open.

"I took up tennis about four years ago and fell in love with it immediately, it was just love at first sight," he said in a past interview.

"My first encounter was actually at Rod Laver Arena for a promotional event, which was really awesome. From then on in, I just loved it and started playing more and more.”

That was back in 2018, now four years later there’s the hope Oli will return to his love of sport and compete in the games - now that would make an epic storyline for a soap wouldn’t it?

The final episode of Neighbours is on Channel 5, Friday July 29 at 9pm available afterwards on My 5.