Standing up to be counted
- Friday, 15 April 2016
By Tracey Lewis – Football Budget Editor
LYNDSY Ashworth personifies football passion.
Many WAFL supporters would recognise his face as he can typically be found at Subiaco games waving his substantial club flag behind the goals, proudly displaying his undying dedication to the Lions.
However, Lyndsy has become more than a treasured WAFL fan. Through the incredibly hard work of some amazing volunteers, he is also now a State representative and All Australian footballer.
Lyndsy plays for Coolbinia West Perth in the Integrated Football competition run by the West Australian Amateur Football League.
The competition has been running since 2011 and is designed to introduce both male and females aged 16 years and over with Intellectual Disabilities to Australian Football.
This weekend is the WAFL’s Count Me In Round, a partnership developed between the Disability Services Commission, the WA Football Commission and the Department of Sport and Recreation. The specially-themed round will promote the State Government’s aspiration that we all live in welcoming communities that facilitate citizenship, friendship, mutual support and a fair go for everyone.
The round will include demonstration games at half time by integrated football teams, Count Me In promotional activities and appearances at League games by special guests.
People with disability with Companion Cards and their companions, or people with specially marked tickets, will gain free entry to any of the WAFL home games during this round.
Integrated Football offers people with a disability and their carers an opportunity to experience football and all it has to offer – on and off the field – however recruiting players, coaches and volunteers continues to be quite a battle.
For myriad reasons getting players to training and games can be a logistical nightmare as well-meaning carers and agencies try to incorporate it into the lives of their clients. Some of those clients live on their own, some in group homes and their individual needs and abilities vary greatly.
Coolbinia West Perth coach John Stone knows all too well the challenges that come with not only recruiting players to the club each year, but managing the players and their carers throughout the season.
“Dealing with players’ carers has got a little bit better over the years, but there are still some instances where you have issues, like when we are playing away from home and it all seems a bit too hard to get the players to the game,” John said.
“But we work around it. The players are more important that the actual game and it is about getting them out and enjoying life.”
John, who has an autistic stepson, was asked by friend, and veterans football teammate, John Treasure, to take on the coaching role.
“John is the managing director at Teem Treasure and he and Cathy Shand have done an amazing job introducing a great range of boys to football,” John said.
“My philosophy is to treat each player as an individual.
“Some of them are very capable and some not, but you can’t put them in the same basket. You have to know each of their personalities and how to read if they are coming to training and the game in a good way.
“It is hard work but it’s so enjoyable when they come up and high five you or give you a hug. They’ve all got their special ways.
“When we won the grand final last year I’ve never seen nearly a whole team cry. That blew me away, even the stronger guys had tears.
“Quite a few of them have really grown, not just in terms of football but towards each other. They bounce off each other and coming to training and playing together is a real form of companionship.”
John couldn’t speak highly enough about Lyndsy and WA’s other All Australian representative, David Hallows.
WA’s inaugural Integrated team participated in the AFL National Inclusion Carnival in Melbourne in August last year.
The team claimed its first win over Tasmania but were well beaten by Vic Metro, Vic Country and SA before going down narrowly to Queensland at Victoria Park. They fought back in the play-off for fifth with a resounding win at Punt Road.
The week was capped off with All Australian selection for Lyndsy and David.
“I take my hat off to Lyndsy because he lives on his own and he is one hell of a trier. He is a great helper,” John said of one of his star players.
“He has a heart of gold and loves his sport. He gets on with everyone but isn’t frightened to tell someone if he doesn’t like them.
“It meant so much for him last year to play for WA and then be named in the All Australian team. He was absolutely over the moon. He was a first-choice pick for the WA team and I believe he was one of the first three chosen in the All Australian team. He plays everywhere. I try to keep him in the centre but he runs everywhere.
“David is a bit more laid back. He also loves his sport. He’s played basketball and other sports. He’s been captain of the side the last two years and he’s led by example and really grown.”
Greg Gilbee, WAAFL Integrated Football Co-ordinator, said Amateur Clubs extended opportunities to their Integrated Footballers to join in with social activities and club-based functions.
“Integrated Football is a very inclusive program,” Greg said.
“The program comprises seven teams -- Wembley, Warnbro, Kingsway, High Wycombe, Coolbinia West Perth, Fremantle CBC Green and Fremantle CBC Gold.
“In our first round last weekend, Warnbro Swans were at home to Wembley and there was the traditional Fremantle Derby at Morris Buzzacott Reserve between co-tenants Fremantle CBC Gold and Fremantle CBC Green.
“While we haven’t increased the number of participating teams in the season-proper, we received interest from WAAFL Clubs in becoming involved, with Ocean Ridge and Brentwood Booragoon both hosting Come N Try days in the off season to attract new participants to the program.
“Our program focuses primarily on participation, however Integrated Football also provides ample opportunity to compete which is clear to see when you attend an Integrated game.”
This season the Integrated competition will feature some matches under lights, while they will play their annual West Coast Eagles curtain-raiser at Domain Stadium before the West Coast and Adelaide clash on June 11.
In all, 18 rounds of Integrated Football provides ample opportunity for our players to display their many talents and skills, renew friendships and make some new ones,” Greg said.