Hawthorn is one club, many teams, including a wheelchair footy and an AFL Blind team. With lots of time to be spent at home over the coming weeks, we thought it was the perfect time for Hawks fans to learn a little bit more about the players that make up these teams.
Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do outside of footy?
I am a carer and spend most of my time doing that. I love horse racing and part-own 14 racehorses, with one entered in the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup which is exciting. I have two kids, a son and daughter. My daughter has just got married in August and my son has just become school teacher.
So, you play wheelchair AFL, what made you pursue AFL and how did you get involved?
I have been interested in the league since the competition started about five years ago or so. I saw on Hawthorn’s website that the club was running a come and try day. I came down and loved it, and managed to get drafted to the Hawks!
Can you briefly explain how wheelchair AFL is played?
It’s quite like netball, there are five players on each team and only the forwards can score. Instead of kicking a handball is a kick in our game, and an underarm throw is a handball. Besides that, it’s really about quick ball movement forward.
Wheelchair sports have a wide range of people who participate, with various stories and challenges. What was your pathway into wheelchair sport and what are some of the challenges you face daily and in sport?
I have a left leg amputation. I rolled my ankle quite badly in 2000, and in 2006 I had it amputated because the pain was so unbearable. It was explained to me as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The doctors tried everything they could, suggesting a lot of different surgeries and treatments, even putting metal boxes into my back. In the end the pain was too much, it could be so debilitating that it would often make me physically ill. So I met up with my surgeon and agreed to amputate it, 21 days later it was done.
What do you love most about wheelchair AFL?
I love being a part of a team again. I played a lot of footy growing up so to be a part of a team environment again is just great, I love it. Being a lifelong Hawthorn supporter and to now play for the club is special.
What is your connection to Hawthorn?
I went to Lilydale Tech school. Don Scott’s dad was my sheet metal teacher back in Year 8 which is a while ago now. My parents didn’t do a lot with us, so when Dons’ dad found out I was a Hawk’s supporter and I was going to the football by myself, especially out to places like Victoria Park and Windy Hill, he decided to pick me up and take me to the footy. He used to pick me up and take me to Don’s place which was next to Swinburne Uni in Glenferrie, and head to the games from there. Don got us into the rooms after games, membership tickets and all sorts of things. When you’re 13 it was the best thing since sliced bread. Don’s dad died when I was still in school in the 80’s, but I still maintained a connection to the Scott’s.
Have you played any other sports?
I haven’t tried too many wheelchair sports; I have tried swimming, but unfortunately I was a bit too slow in the water. I thought I’d better try something else and I have always had a decent throw, so I tried out for shotput at a Paralympic level. Unfortunately, my classification was taken out of the most recent games in Japan. I also played a lot of footy growing up, mainly playing for Seville, Mitcham and South Croydon.
Do you have any heroes or people you aspire to be like?
If I could name a whole team of Hawthorn footballers I would. When you’re a 13-year-old standing in the change rooms with people like Leigh Mathews, Michael Tuck, David Parkin, John Kennedy, Peter Hudson and more, it’s a bit hard to single them all down.
What is your ultimate sporting goal and what is a life goal of yours?
I would love to win a flag with the wheelchair team. A life goal would be to see my grandchildren grow up and be able to take them to the footy. I don’t have any at the moment, but when I do I would love that.
If you could encourage someone to try your sport, what would you say to them?
It all depends on the person of course but I would encourage anyone to get involved in sport. It took me 10 years to get the mindset to start playing sport again, but it’s been the best thing to help me through, so I would encourage everyone to play some form of sport in any capacity.
What does it mean to be drafted to Hawthorn football clubs wheelchair team?
I don’t even think I can find words to describe it. It’s probably one of the best things that’s happened in my life. I get to play for the Hawthorn Football Club who I have supported my whole life, and been a member for 45 years, so it means the world.
Hawthorn’s Wheelchair Team is made possible thanks to the support of the club’s new social inclusion partner, Afford. With over 65 years of experience, Afford are one of Australia’s longest serving disability service providers. To find out more, please click here.