Powerchair Football takes centre court in Mount Druitt

The 2014 Powerchair National Championships saw NSW fall at the final hurdle to Qld in a hard fought tournament at Kevin Betts Stadium in Mount Druitt.

NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, Stuart Ayers turned out to help Football Federation Australia (FFA) CEO, David Gallop announce the players in the national side, the Poweroos, lending the event a high profile.

NSW made the final of the tournament, played August 5-9, after beating Canterbury - who came over from New Zealand to compete - 2-1 on the semi-final.

Qld dominated field position and possession in the final to record a tough 2-0 victory. That reversed a trend in which NSW won the same match up 2-1 in the title decider the last two years running.

The same cries of “fire up” by players and cheers of encouragement from the sideline are heard at powerchair as any other important tournament in Australia, giving the event a good atmosphere.

Powerchair football is a team game that gives people of varying disabilities the chance to play strong representative sport.

It combines the skill of the wheelchair user with the speed and power of the chair itself, while requiring a great knack for reading angles and thinking ahead of the game.

The NSW team included players from all around the state, including Sydney residents studying at the University of Western Sydney (UWS).

Chris Turnbull is from Annangrove and studies forensic science at UWS; he is one of the best players in the country and most capped Australian international.

Jacob Cross studies urban planning, also at UWS.

NSW and Australian captain, Chris Suffield, believes playing the sport is first and foremost about having fun, but can see many other benefits too.

“We all make lots of friends through sport and it’s a great place to hang out,” he said.

“It teaches skills like communication and leadership as well, which is good and it’s an opportunity for people who can’t play other sports to join in together.

“The game is an even contest which is important.”

Suffield, 25, holds a degree in economics and is working towards a bachelor of writing, proving these players, are able to overcome and succeed in more ways than just sport.

Camaraderie, social skills and confidence are all improved by playing team sports.

That is no different for powerchair football and shows the importance of allowing people of all stripes to participate and excel in sport.

Gallop addressed the players to emphasise their place in football, before presenting the national jerseys.

“The FFA uses the saying, ‘We are football’, and that goes right along to people who play powerchair football,” he said.

“We are all football just the same, so it is an honour to recognise and congratulate those who will be national representatives.

Ayers reiterated those sentiments and highlighted the fact the government has backed this tournament.

“Sport is for everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an Olympic athlete or NSW rep for powerchair, sport is for all of society,” said Ayers.

“What we’ve seen today is people who’ve been thrown a set of circumstances in life that other people would find challenging embrace what they’ve got in life and find a way to make it work.

“The government supports the association and their championships and whilst I’m sports minister that will continue.”

A major difference of powerchair to regular football is that only one person at a time from, each side, may contest possession of the ball – except for the goal keeper in their goal box – to ensure the game flows. 

And if the ball goes more than 50 centimetres off the ground the game is stopped and a face off restarts proceedings.

The tournament finished with an Australian side playing New Zealand in the ‘Ditch Cup’.

Australia won that match 6-0 after getting out to an early lead before the visitors were able to respond with any strong threat.

The Australian Poweroos side that played New Zealand in The Ditch Cup:

Josh Merkas, Tristram Peters and Bryce Castles from Queensland, Santo Bongiovanni from South Australia, Luke David from Victoria and Chris Turnbull, Jordan Crane and captain Chris Suffield from NSW.

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