Perth junior football club kicks off team for children with special needs
- APRIL 06, 2015
FORGET the professionals all over our TV screens this weekend – the real heroes of Aussie Rules football belong to a club in the inner suburbs of Perth.
This winter the squad will turn up to Coolbinia Oval every Sunday, put on their red and black jumpers and tackle the odds.
They are the Coolbinia Bombers – a junior football club that has launched a new team exclusively for children with special needs.
Among their line-up is five-year-old Archer Johnson. Archer has cerebral palsy, is legally blind and normally uses a wheelchair.
He will take to the field with a special “Upsee” suit that straps him to his mum or a volunteer and “bell balls” designed specifically for the vision impaired.
“If you have three boys, you want them all to play footy,” Archer’s mother Lisa told The Sunday Times.
“It’s just amazing that they can do it now. All the boys can get ready together at home, we can all come down, he’s not excluded at all.”
Team co-ordinator Robert Geersen said families from Alkimos, Gosnells, Coolbellup, Forrestfield and Midland would bring their kids to the oval to take part.
The nation-leading initiative, Starkick, was developed to create more sporting opportunities for children with special needs within a community club.
A similar program called Footy Champs will be starting this year at the Manning, High Wycombe and Hammond Park junior football clubs. “The games aren’t going to be high-paced AFL games but my goal will be that every kid out there gets to touch the ball at least once,” Mr Geersen said.
The club already had members with special needs playing in mainstream teams, including Mr Geersen’s son, who has cerebral palsy. But he wanted something for children with greater needs.
The team would be a stepping stone to the mainstream teams for many of the kids, who could ask to move across at any time, Mr Geersen said.
Single dad Dave Bouzidis said it was an “incredible” chance for his sons, Kosta and Raphael, to be part of a wider club and play with other children. Both boys have been bullied and excluded in the past because of their autism.
Mr Bouzidis said he hoped the team would help the boys socialise more, while also helping the community learn more about their condition.
“If you’d ask me two years ago, would I be standing here with my two sons with them with the gear on, I would have said ‘You’re dreaming, it’s not going to happen’,” he said.
About 35 kids from the Starkick team will join 200 other Bombers’ members for their first session on April 19, from 8.30am to 10am at Coolbinia Reserve.
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