Navy wheelchair athletes perform well

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Dave Devlin (author), Disability Sports Australia (photographer)

Location(s): Melbourne

Topic(s): Sport, Wheelchair Australian Rules Football

The ADF Wheelchair Aussie Rules players and coach prior to a match during the 2018 National Wheelchair Aussie Rules Championships (photo: Disability Sports Australia)
The ADF Wheelchair Aussie Rules players and coach prior to a match during the 2018 National Wheelchair Aussie Rules Championships

Navy people have featured strongly in two ADF teams competing in the third annual National Wheelchair Aussie Rules Championships in Melbourne.

After winning the bronze medal in 2017, the teams fell just short of that achievement suffering a defeat to team Victoria in the bronze medal play-off match.

Wheelchair Aussie Rules has been developed to provide all Australian Football enthusiasts, with or without a disability, an Aussie Rules experience that has strong parallels with the traditional game. Based on AFL rules and played on a basketball court this adaptive sport is open for anyone to play.

Able Seaman Marine Technician Mark Daniels from Fleet Support Unit-Stirling said the opportunity to play in a competitive sport at a national level has been an amazing experience.

“Having played wheelchair rugby and basketball it was great to find another adaptive sport to play and compete in at a high level.

“It’s certainly different to other wheelchair sports. I played AFL previously so to get an opportunity to play again, albeit in a wheelchair, is something I never thought would be possible.

“The camaraderie and competitive nature of the sport is amazing, everyone supports each other regardless of the team they are playing on,” Able Seaman Daniels said.

The ADF has been at the forefront of developing this version of Australia’s national game, by collaborating with Disability Sports Australia, and the AFL.

Team Manager and Coach, Warrant Officer Class Two Wayne Morley said the concept of the game is fantastic.

“It provides great opportunities for those undergoing any form of rehabilitation to be involved in a competitive sport.

“Our teams only got together recently, they did some basic skills training and team bonding and really only had the chance to sit in the wheelchairs and practice as a team about an hour before the first game.

“Noting what they have accomplished, it has been a great effort and they can all be proud of what they have achieved both as individuals and an ADF team,” Warrant Officer Morley said.

Director of umpiring for the ADF Aussie Rules Association, Squadron Leader Mark Rinnie, worked with the sports coordinator for physical disability in Tasmania, Mr Kevin Faulkner to develop the rules of the game that are now endorsed by the AFL and used in competition. This partnership with Disability Sports Australia has allowed the development of the game to accelerate and has led to the recent establishment by AFL Victoria of a state-wide Wheelchair AFL League.

On completion of matches, Able Seaman Marine Technician Braedon Griffiths of HMAS Kuttabul was voted Best Centre while Private Richard Tebb from 3-RAR received the award for Best Forward.