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Libs chase Paralympic champion Cowdrey for state seat

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EXCLUSIVE: Australia’s greatest ever Paralympian, Adelaide’s Matt Cowdrey, has been wooed by the South Australian Liberal Party to run for the 2018 state election, in a bid to wrest one of Labor’s most marginal seats, InDaily can reveal.

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The 27-year-old, who called time on his glittering swimming career in February last year with an Australian record 13 gold Paralympic medals to his name, is understood to be in the box seat to win preselection for the western suburbs seaside seat of Colton, held by former environment minister Paul Caica.

Cowdrey, who has worked in the finance sector with accounting firm KPMG alongside various media roles since his retirement, did not return calls today, but InDaily has been told he had been keen to put his hat in the ring for Liberal preselection, and is a paid-up party member.

Party stalwart Rob Lucas, who is the Upper House member paired with the Colton campaign, told InDaily today: “If Matt chooses to be a preselection candidate for the Liberal Party – and he’s successful – I think he’d make an outstanding member of parliament.”

“I suspect Matt Cowdrey and a number of other people will make their final decision as to their personal intentions once they’ve seen the final electoral boundaries,” Lucas said.

Supplied photo made available Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, of swimmer Matthew Cowdrey from Australia celebrating his gold medal win in the Men's 400m Free S9 event at the Paralympic Games in London on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. (AAP Image/Australian Paralympic Committee, Jeff Crow) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Cowdrey celebrating his gold medal win in the Men’s 400m Free S9 at the London Paralympic Games in 2012. Photo: Jeff Crow, Australian Paralympic Committee via AAP

The Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission’s keenly-anticipated final report will be handed to the Governor today, with its findings to be revealed publicly at 11am tomorrow.

While the redrawn electoral map could still be subject to Supreme Court appeal, tomorrow’s publication will effectively fire the starter’s pistol on the state election campaign ahead of the March 2018 poll, with a host of serving members set to decide their future intentions based on the boundary changes, and several prospective candidates weighing up whether to contest winnable seats.

Colton was Labor second most marginal seat at the 2014 election, with a 1.5 per cent margin. However, only around 30 primary votes separated Caica and his Liberal challenger Joe Barry.

The contentious draft redistribution released in August pushed the seat’s margin out to 2.2 per cent, but it would still be considered eminently winnable with a strong candidate and a statewide swing to the Liberals.

A party source told InDaily Cowdrey had “been wooed for quite a while”.

“They’ve put a fair bit of work into him… he’s a party member, he’s interested and he’s keen,” the insider said.

But Cowdrey would still have to convince the branch members of his credentials.

“We’re a bit democratic and nobody can just say ‘you’re the candidate’,” the source said.

“There’s a process, but you’d think someone with his profile would be pretty damn good.”

It’s understood there is a strong field of potential candidates for Colton, with “at least one other high-profile prospect” considering a tilt at the seat.

Cowdrey, who was born with a congenital amputation to his lower left arm, began swimming at five, breaking his first world record at 13.

He announced himself with gusto at the Athens Games in 2004, winning three gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes, and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal.

Among a host of world records, he holds Australia’s Paralympic record for the most medals won, with 23 overall, as well as 21 medals across three world championships, including 16 gold.

Liberal state director Sascha Meldrum said she had not spoken to Cowdrey personally about his prospective candidacy, but confirmed “his name has been bandied around a little bit”.

If successful, Cowdrey wouldn’t be the first well-known sporting personality to stand under the Liberal banner in recent years; former Crows star Nigel Smart ran unsuccessfully for Norwood in 2006, a year of electoral disaster for the Liberals in which they failed to pick up any Labor-held seats.

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