WA parents know all about being chauffeurs for their kids at the weekends — but one family travels more than 1000km so their nine-year-old son can play football.
Brian and Marilou Rogers live in Newman in the Pilbara, but their son, Thomas, plays football for the Coolbinia Bombers — an inner Perth club that launched a team exclusively for children with a disability earlier this year.
The couple found out about the team, called Starkick, after a The Sunday Times article on the nation-leading initiative in April.
It aims to create more sporting opportunities for children living with physical and mental disabilities within a community club.
For Thomas, who has cerebral palsy, it was a chance to play football without the worry he would be knocked about or judged, so the Rogers family decided to check it out while in Perth for one of Thomas’s medical appointments.
“Thomas didn’t really want to participate at the start because he thought it was going to be too rough, like the junior football up in Newman, but he’s enjoyed himself,” Mr Rogers said.
The family has since made it to three of the team’s Sunday-morning training sessions and games.
Mr Rogers said while his son was playing T-ball and soccer in Newman, it was great to see him be able to have a go at Aussie Rules.
“Once you see those kids running around and having a go, it doesn’t matter about the rules or how they play or anything like that — it’s just that they’re out there having a go,” he said.
“The thing is the kids feel comfortable.
“They see other kids like them and it gives them a bit of encouragement. I reckon it’s good for the parents, as well. We have a talk.”
Starkick coach Rob Geersen said the club had been approached by other sports about the initiative and been asked by the City of Stirling to give a talk on it.
The squad, which now has 44 members, had a training session with the Fremantle Dockers and will get the chance to run onto Subiaco Oval at half-time during the West Coast Eagles’ clash with the Western Bulldogs on August 23.
Mr Geersen said he hoped other community clubs would soon pick up the concept.
“With so many different disabilities, it is an interesting juggling act for the coaches and volunteers to try to cater to each child’s needs,” he said.
“But the children seem to be enjoying themselves and come back smiling each weekend be it rain, hail or shine.”