Wheelchair AFL rolls into NSW
NSW footy fans rejoice, there’s a new game in town.
Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT, along with star player and passionate advocate, Brett Newman, have started up one of Australia’s first regional wheelchair AFL programs, in Albury. It is the first dedicated wheelchair AFL program in NSW, and there’s been huge interest.
Albury’s sessions are designed for people to come and try wheelchair AFL, regardless of their sporting background, age, gender or disability category (you don’t even have to be wheelchair bound to play).
There have been around 24 participants turn up to each of the two sessions run in Albury before a COVID-enforced delay. That’s exciting for a new concept and the numbers will only grow.
AFL star leads the expansion
Brett Newman is leading the charge on the ground, with support from Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT and AFL NSW/ACT.
There is no better person to be the face of the sport in this region.
Newman is a star in the Victorian Wheelchair Football League. In a twist, the Essendon tragic is Vice-Captain of Collingwood, playing with them since 2018.
His side is a juggernaut, with its undefeated 2019 season underscoring its prowess. Newman is proud to play for the Magpies, undertaking the three-hour each-way commute to game day without any hesitation.
He also plays a role elevating the wheelchair AFL’s status. He had a hand organising an Anzac Day match against the Bombers and has been there to see his team presented at the Collingwood’s best and fairest dinners alongside the elite AFL team. He has also stood alongside Nathan Buckley during an Anzac Day press event.
Building the format
Newman has big plans for wheelchair AFL in NSW. “My aim is to get the community involved and get a competition going with local footy clubs,” he said. “Baby steps at this stage, but it would be great to see it expand further up through the state.”
Newman eventually wants to see a NSW representative side for wheelchair AFL and maybe a GIANTS or Swans team further down the line.
Mick Garnett from Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT shares Newman’s plan: “We have a huge vision for the sport,” he told a forum on the eve of the Paralympics. “There’s no reason why the biggest state in the country shouldn’t be involved in it.
“Wheelchair AFL might become the biggest wheelchair sport in Australia. It’s entirely unisex, there’s no classification. In wheelchair AFL, everyone can play. That leads to a lot of people playing. It’s really good for the kids because scoring is low down, which is unlike basketball.”
Beyond the physical
Newman cannot speak highly enough of what the sport has done for him. As a veteran with two knee replacements and PTSD from his time in the ADF, “getting into this sport has helped me feel part of a team again and learn to socialise,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been able to talk to people in 2013 and 2014.
“Sport is so good for the mind. It’s also involves the support of my family and lets them see me achieve things and be happy again. It’s also seen me make new friends.”
With support from Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT and the AFL, and with people like Brett Newman involved, it is sure to take off.
This article was published on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and we are holding hopes that it could feature at Brisbane 2032.
AFL NSW/ACT’s Road Trip Continues day and night! Stay tuned for more.