Invictus athlete already a hero to mates

Craig McGrath, next to Meghan, had a big support team on hand to watch him win silver.
Craig McGrath, next to Meghan, had a big support team on hand to watch him win silver.

In the eyes of Craig McGrath's friends he's already a hero, but his personal fan squad have another reason to be proud of the former sniper as and now Australian Invictus athlete.

McGrath was a Commando in the Australian Army in Afghanistan in 2012 when an IED exploded next to him.

But on Saturday his accident and journey to recovery were distant memories as he emerged triumphant from his vehicle in the Invictus Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge on Sydney's Cockatoo Island.

McGrath and teammate Scott Reynolds won silver for Australia in the event, in which competitors tackle a water obstacle course and two precision driving challenges.

McGrath was moved to tears by the support of his family and friends who turned out to cheer him sporting printed t-shirts with his face on them.

"I didn't know anything about that, it's pretty funny," he laughed when he saw the T-shirts.

"The worst picture ever."

But when it came to describing what it meant to him to have those friends who had been by his side from hospital bed to champion athlete McGrath was lost for words.

"It's hard to talk about to be honest," he said as he wiped away a tear.

"I couldn't ask for better friends, they're good people."

While the humble hero isn't the type to talk his achievements up, his friends in the crowd had no such reluctance.

"He lost parts of his hand and his fingers had to be shortened, they took out bones and so he could no longer fulfil his role as a sniper," friend of more than two decades Greg French told AAP.

"He'd spent so long training to be a warrior and now he couldn't be that anymore, he was quite depressed plus he had a lot of chronic pain to deal with."

A jubilant Mr French and his wife Liz alongside fellow friends Matthew and Tiffany Poulter proudly paired their custom shirts with Australian tattoos and green and gold zinc to watch their mate compete.

But the buoyant quad were brought to tears when they spoke of watching Craig's journey from the hospital bed to competing at first the 2016, and then the 2018 Invictus Games.

"He's an inspiration, just the way that he's bounced back from it and the injuries that he sustained," Mr French said.

"We're very proud of him ... mentally he's so strong."

According to Liz French, who was a bridesmaid at his wedding, even in his darkest hours McGrath was still focused on helping others.

"He's got the biggest heart, he's probably one of the most compassionate and generous people we know," she told AAP.

"It's never been about him, he's been more concerned these past years about his fellow soldiers that have been wounded or have died."

The 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney includes more than 500 wounded former servicemen and women from 18 nations who will compete against each other in 13 sports.

Australian Associated Press