By Chelsea McNeill
Ten amateur Australian rules football teams in WA are providing players with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to play the national game.
The Integrated Football competition is hosted by the Perth Football League and is open to everyone with an intellectual disability aged sixteen years and over. This includes both males and females.
A primary aim of the competition is to bring the community together while teaching players how to cope with success and failure.
“It’s a rapidly growing competition; every year it seems like it’s growing a little bit more,” says Andrew McCarrey, senior coach of the Integrated Football Team at Fremantle CBC.
In 2019, a new team joined the league – the Mandurah Mustangs. When it started a decade ago there were only two teams involved.
The clubs which are currently fielding Integrated Football Teams are Fremantle CBC, Coolbinia, High Wycombe, Kingsway, Mandurah, North Beach, Warnbro Swans, Wembley and Willetton.
There are two Integrated Teams at Fremantle CBC, with about 50 players taking part.
“It takes a lot of organisation, but I absolutely love it down here,” says McCarrey.
“We usually play footy once a week,” says Kyron Timms, a player in the Fremantle CBC Integrated Team.
When asked what is his favourite part of playing for Fremantle CBC, Timms says it’s making new friends and “looking after his brothers”.
McCarrey says, as well as the obvious physical benefits experienced by the players, the mental benefits of socialising with teammates every week are huge.
The local competition is supplemented by an annual national carnival, which sees some of WA’s top players travel interstate to play against Integrated Teams from across the country.
This year the National Carnival will be held in New South Wales.