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Olympian & Water Polo Champion


Achieving quietly. I think being humble is a hugely important trait.


Matilda (Tilly) Kearns fell in love with waterpolo, after being asked to fill in for the Sydney northern beaches breakers at age 12. She is now one of the best players in the world.

Recently named best centre in the world at the 2023 World Championships at Fukuoka in Japan, Tilly is a true champion and a key force in the Aussie Stingers (our national water polo side), team. In 2019 Tilly made the bold move to go to the US to join the University of Southern California (USC) squad in an effort to further build her skills and capability and it paid off – last season, she was USC’s top scorer, nailing 64 goals.

Outside of the pool, Tilly is dedicated to helping lower the barriers to and opportunities in sport for women and girls. Her down-to-earth approachability and brilliant sense of humour has made Tilly a hit on social media, where she shares insights into the realities of life as an athlete to her highly engaged followers.

Talking Points

Stepping Outside your Comfort Zone

How far are you willing to go to make your dreams a reality? Tilly’s lifelong dream was to go to the Tokyo Olympics as a 19 year old, but at 17 she knew that the training and environment she was in wouldn’t get her there. She decided it was time to take a chance and make the necessary changes to deliver her best. It was frightening and uncomfortable but in those choices Tilly found her feet and incredible success.

Speaking to how she made the uncomfortable comfortable, Tilly grips audiences with her refreshing perspective on what happens when you allow yourself to step into a growth zone.

The Journey to the Olympics - From High School to Tokyo

For many, working out what to do after high school can take time and much soul searching, but Tilly Kearns always knew exactly what she wanted to do, it was just a matter of how she was going to make that happen.

The journey was far from easy and at every step Tilly needed to make tough decisions - taking chances, and challenging the status quo but her efforts paid off and Tilly found herself part of the team competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Even then though the challenges continued - having the Games postponed required true resilience and a shifting mindset and in this keynote, Tilly shares it all.

Students will be hooked by Tilly’s unconventional journey and her ability to demonstrate the importance of hard work, dedication, resilience and team work.

Lessons from a Female Athlete

Navigating the way to the top of your field is hard for any athlete, let alone female athletes. More often than not women face adversity, inequalities and have fight to breakdown stereotypes day after day. Despite being only 23 years old, Tilly Kearns is wise beyond her years, discussing the importance of balance, dealing with hard leadership, working in a team and her personal stories of adversity as one of Australia’s top female athletes.
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