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Perfect Ending for WA Inclusion AcademyWednesday, December 8, 2021 - 9:46 AM - by Robert Turner

It all came down to the last Game on Friday Afternoon, and in celebration of the International Day of People with Disability (December 3). All players were eager to be crowned the Toyota AFL Cup Victors as WA Team Black and WA Team Gold held one win each. Both Teams ran out at Mineral Resources Park in front of an overwhelmingly large crowd of supporters, including the West Coat Eagles Men’s and Women’s Players. All Players and their coaches weren’t without aspiration and the game started off with a Huge Dual of midfielders sending the Ball Up and Down the Ground throughout the First Quarter. Team Gold had their chance at scoring shots, while Team Black capitalised on their accuracy at each opportunity. 

The Fourth Quarter Started Team Black 3.4 (22), Team Gold 2.6 (22). At the Final Siren, the scores were still level, Black 3.11 (29), Gold 4.5 (29), with a young Luke Fitzpatrick standing a dizzying angle and distance from the goals with a Free Kick after the Siren for Team Gold. The Crowd was on the edges of their seat, but the big distance proved to much for the skilful player, a distance any player would have struggled after four quarters in the Summer Afternoon Sun. 

The entire Field and Crowd Erupted at the acknowledgment of the Draw. All the friendly competition rivalry was washed away as every player embraced all their fellow team mates and opposition players, as a monumental achievement of the Inclusion Academy. Tyson Worthington and Charlie Crown stood out in the midfield as they battled hard for their teams forward drive. The running pace of Reece McIntyre, Toby Isenhood, Ben Rock and Keegan Sims ensured their teams were hard fort at the football.

 The Big Men David Hallows, Zach Aquino, Scott Crawford and Blair Quin took to the sky and dominated possessions, feeding to their smaller rovers. Whilst the Backmen Tyler Gould, Chris Willers and Kyron Timms cut off many entries. On several occasions, the goal scorers were applauded and hi-fived by the West Coast Eagles players leaning over the supporters fence. There wasn’t a player on the field who didn’t deserve accolades. At the end of the match, Minister of Sports Dr. Tony Buti presented each player with a Special Academy Medal donated by Mr. Buti and MP Matt Keogh. 

The Inclusion Football Academy training occurred across 8 weeks, where players from the 11 Metro Integrated AFL Clubs had the opportunity to meet other integrated players, supports and coaches. Their journey over a fully committed program provided each player with additional capacity and confidence to further themselves in sport and in life journey. Divided into two State Representative Teams, Team Gold and Team Black, each player devoted to the opportunity and aspiration to Win the Toyota Cup. 

Last month, the Players were rewarded with a special gift and mentorship. Toyota AFL and Fremantle Player Michael ‘Sonny’ Walters joined the Academy devoting special time in creating a feature documentary of the program and made unique AFL Playing Cards for each Player, just like the AFL Players. There was a joyful surprise and excitement by each player and their families when the big surprise was unveiled. Perth Football League’s Integrated Competition ‘Inclusion Football Academy’ expands the Talent program for footballers with a disability. Aimed at footballers with a disability aged 16 years and above, the Academy, under the guidance of head coaches, the competition centres around the development of FOOTBALL – WELL BEING – LEADERSHIP. 

All abilities football in Western Australia has its origins in 2008/09 where several Perth Football League clubs identified a need for players with an intellectual disability who love the game of footy. Integrated Football has grown to facilitate a yearly football competition with 350+ players part of 11 local Perth Football League clubs. Players play the same game, format and season as AFL footballers. Integrated Football provides participants the same physical, mental and social benefits as those who are not intellectually disabled. It offers many benefits to the individuals, their families and non-disabled athletes. The value of this inclusive environment is explored in terms of the connection they provide among and between individuals with intellectual disabilities, their families and the surrounding community.