Kelmscott Bulldogs’ Robert Turner was already a winner to his adoring community, but now the rest of the country knows too.
He has just been announced as the National AFL Disability Inclusion Ambassador of the Year.
The award was presented by the West Australian Football Commission and Perth Football League staff at the WA All Abilities Inclusion Academy, where Robert volunteers as a coach.
“It was a huge surprise, and really special to receive the award in front of all the representatives from each of the clubs,” he said.
“It’s a true honour, as I truly know how much dedication and sacrifice many others are devoting to their own community football clubs.
“It’s all the participants who are the heroes and real reason we do this. Their aspiration and raw desire to play is the purest form of grass roots football.”
It’s been a decade since Robert started following the progress of the WA All Abilities Football Association and identified a need for the competition to come to our area.
A trial ‘Have A Go Day’ at Armadale High in which students with disabilities were able to put on a uniform and “play in a match just like their heroes” was a resounding success.
Robert then campaigned hard, gaining support from the City of Armadale, disability support providers and local schools.
Through the Kelmscott AFL club Robert established the inaugural integrated (all-abilities) AFL team in the south-east of Perth. He also extended the club’s program to facilitate non-playing participation of people living with disability.
“In 2021 we started with just seven players, and now boast over 40 playing participants, and a great following of supporters,” he said.
“The team and club have been instrumental in changing community inclusion and growing opportunities for people living with disability.
“Providing an opportunity for people living with disability to experience and share this passion is extremely uplifting.
“Despite the hardest days and difficulties in our lives, coming together at training or for a game, or in a social setting, everyone can be supported and share the joy that comes from community football clubs.
“I couldn’t imagine not being involved in integrated or inclusion football.”
WA Football received almost 1500 nominations for the Rio Tinto WA Football Volunteer of the Year Awards across 10 categories, the largest number of nominations in recent years.
Robert, along with the other national award recipients, will head to Melbourne next month for the AFL Grand Final.