Armadale to host first local blind sports league in the state

Armadale to host first local blind sports league in the state

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Salih Oztas goes in for the tackle at Saturday’s Come and Try Day in Armadale.

For the first time in WA, people with a vision impairment will have the chance to play AFL and soccer as a member of a local club.

Blind Sports WA is thrilled to announce that a Winter Sports program for people of all abilities will begin at the Armadale Arena in May.

Blind Sports WA development officer Raquelle Hannen-Williams said a footy program was run in 2022 and 2023 by the WA All Abilities Football Association for participants who are blind or have a vision impairment and wanted to play AFL.

Curtis Hawke makes a save playing Goalball

“But there was a lot of feedback from the blind and vision-impaired community that they wanted to belong to a local club,” she said.

Rob Turner who has spearheaded the all-abilities inclusion team for the Kelmscott Bulldogs was keen to help develop the idea.

“And the City of Armadale has been a really good supporter of our initiatives,” Raquelle said.

“The biggest challenge was finding a standalone venue to host the program.”

Because players rely heavily on their hearing, it was essential that the venue was accessible, enclosed and exclusively available, so outside noises don’t interfere with the enjoyment of the game. The Arena ticked every box.

There will be two core teams to begin the season, but Raquelle said she’s certain that interest will snowball once the word gets out.

Julie Cavallo and Raquelle Hannen-Williams, from Blind Sports WA

“We’ve had a lot of interest from new people, and excitement from returning players,” she said.

“We know there are a lot of blind, and vision-impaired people, and people with disabilities of all kinds in the south east of Perth.

“The beauty of our sport is that people of all abilities can play. So we will be able to compete against some of the other integrated footy teams.

“Our motto is ‘if someone wants to play, we’ll find a way’.”

She explained that people with varying degrees of vision are fitted with special simulation goggles, so that everyone can play on an even footing.

Blind AFL and Blind Soccer use special audible balls which emit a constant sound. At Saturday’s very well-attended Come and Try day at the Arena, participants were delighted to trial the adapted equipment.

Ryan Honschooten, took part in the soccer action at the Blind Sports Day at Armadale Arena

A rattle is also shaken when players enter the goal zone, allowing them to aim their shots at goal.

People classed as B1 (completely blind) are awarded nine points for a goal, and three points for a behind, which encourages teammates to include them.

There are also a few modified rules in Blind AFL: there are six people on each team, there is no tackling, and the game is played at a slower pace, meaning people with autism often find it to be an attractive sport.

Dominique Voss and Curtis Hawke compete for the ball

Raquelle said the establishment of WA’s first winter Blind Sports league “is just the beginning”.

“We’re looking to work with local clubs to roll out a Summer sports season too. We’d love to offer Blind Tennis and Blind Cricket,” she said.

“We’re hoping to eventually set up an accessible multi-sports hub in the City of Armadale.”

Photographs – Richard Polden

Fitorio Leksono and son Lanang wearing simulation glasses. Fitorio is completing a PHD at Curtin University on blind sport.