A Defence team today played a South Australian side in the first officially organised game of wheelchair Australian Rules.
The exhibition match at RAAF Base Edinburgh in Adelaide was the culmination of discussions between the Australian Defence Force, Disability Sports Australia (DSA) and the Australian Football League (AFL) about developing Australian Rules football into a recognised wheelchair sport.
The Defence team included 12 personnel from the Soldier Recovery Centre – Darwin.
Australian Defence Force Australian Rules Chairman Brigadier Matt Hall said the soldiers’ participation highlighted Army’s commitment to supporting the rehabilitation of its wounded and injured members.
“The Soldier Recovery Centre-Darwin uses adaptive sports as part of its innovative recovery programs,” Brigadier Hall said.
“They have been conducting informal games of wheelchair Australian Rules for some time and many of our injured people have found it has helped their recovery.”
The profile of wheelchair Aussie Rules was raised significantly when His Royal Highness Prince Harry played with some members of Army’s 1st Brigade in Darwin earlier this year.
Sapper Stephen Burgess, a member of Darwin’s Soldier Recovery Centre, said he was excited about the prospects of playing in such a unique sport.
“I watched from the sidelines when Prince Harry played wheelchair footy in Darwin and it looked like heaps of fun,” Sapper Burgess said.
“I used to play Aussie Rules on a proper footy field, but now that I’ve got a bad back it’s impossible, so this is a great opportunity.”
This weekend, representatives from the ADF Adaptive Sports Program, ADF Australian Rules and Disability Sports Australia held a workshop to finalise a modified set of rules and then conducted familiarisation clinics for players and umpires.
Today’s game was contested on a basketball court and featured six players on the court at one time.
Brigadier Hall said this match created history, but more importantly, it supported the recovery of our soldiers, and had fostered a healthy spirit of collaboration between Defence and Disability Sports Australia.
CEO Disability Sports Australia Jenni Cole said the partnership had been crucial in generating momentum for the development of wheelchair Australian Rules.
“We look forward to continue working with Defence and the AFL in further developing the adaptation of such an iconic Australian sport,” Ms Cole said.
And today’s result…
South Australia 16-8-104 – ADF 14-5-89