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. Hawthorn’s Wheelchair and Blind football teams are made possible by the club’s social inclusion partner, Afford, one of Australia’s longest serving disability service providers.
Tell us a bit about yourself, what you do outside of footy?
I am 17 years old and currently in Year 11 at school. I spend a lot of my spare time outside and love to play basketball, as well as play video games on my Xbox.
So, this is your first year of wheelchair AFL. What made you pursue AFL and how did you get involved?
It all began when a few people from my basketball team kept badgering me to come along and try wheelchair AFL. While I come from a family of Essendon supporters, I don’t follow an AFL team myself. Despite this, I love all sports including footy so I was interested to give it a go.
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 Cerebral Palsy which is a condition that affects both my arms and legs. I can use forearm crutches to help get around, however most of the time I need to use my wheelchair. The condition slightly affects my coordination and I also suffer from a lot of pain, particularly in my feet. I definitely face a few challenges, however I don’t like to complain too much.
My body works best when I am active, and as my family and I live in the country, it can be difficult to stay active when there isn’t so much to do living in Sale. There are very few people we know in our area who understand my disability, so it can be challenging when you don’t have someone else to talk to about it.
Getting involved in wheelchair sports has been amazing for me, and even my mum. We now have a whole new family and it’s been great to meet other people with disabilities – all while playing competitive sport!
Have you played any other sports?
Prior to footy I played wheelchair tennis which was a lot of fun, but nowadays I mostly just stick to basketball and footy.
Do you have any heroes or people you aspire to be like?
I love Kurt Fearnley, he was my first hero! Another idol of mine is Tristan Knowles who is a Paralympic wheelchair basketball player.
What is your ultimate sporting goal and what is a life goal of yours?
For the moment, I would love to focus on improving my skills so that I can play sports at a higher level. The opportunity to perhaps represent Australia in wheelchair basketball one day would be amazing. But for now, I’ll just take smaller steps to reach that level of competition.
If you could encourage someone with a similar story to you to try your sports, what would you say to them?
I would simply say, ‘give it a go and try your best’.
What does it mean to be drafted to the Hawks, and what are you looking forward to about being a part of the Hawthorn family?
It means a lot. Wheelchair footy is an exciting new sport and I’m really looking forward to meeting new people (including my teammates) at the club. Having only been involved with my basketball club, I’m excited to join the Hawks and be a part of something different.
All interviews in the Getting to know series are hosted by Hawthorn’s AFL Blind Vice Captain Ned Brewer-Maiga.
Find out more about Hawthorn’s Social Inclusion Partner, Afford, by heading to their website.