A look at some of Canberra’s most inspiring athletes, and the community that made it all possible
For some, not playing football would be an unimaginable nightmare; while for others, playing football was an unimaginable dream.
One look at Canberra United’s powerchair training session is all you need to realise that the beautiful game changes people’s lives. Inside you’ll find a group of athletes like no other, smiling and laughing while living their dreams of playing the sport they love.
These aren’t your typical football players; they can’t just lace up their boots and run onto the court, in fact, no one runs at all in this sport, and you don’t need boots to play.
This is Powerchair Football.
They’ve sat on the sidelines for so long watching people play sport because they didn’t think there was an option for them.Kelly Stirton
It all started in 2018, when Capital Football, and its commitment to inclusion programs, created Canberra’s own Powerchair Football League to compete on a national scale.
The first years of powerchair were tough, the players were forced to play in modified electric wheelchairs instead of the regulation ones used by other state teams.
We started off with older chairs that weren’t really designed for the sport.Brandon Stroud
This prevented Canberra from competing at the Club Championships until 2022, and it’s understandable why they couldn’t. The Strike Force chairs are equipped with a number of essential safety equipment, such as harnesses, headrests, and speed controls, and with a $15,000 price tag per chair, it looked like they were out of reach for Canberra United.
That was until the team came together and asked the local Canberra community for donations and found the money through a number of partners and sponsors, the biggest being Rotary, who helped raise over $120,000.
We had to work on grants to find the money.Kelly Stirton
Financial implications aren’t the only limiting factor in powerchair, the athletes have a wide variety of physical disabilities that impact their ability to play.
Some team members are required to undergo invasive surgical procedures that require long and hard rehab recoveries that take them out of the game for months at a time.
The loss of key players and a limited player pool make it difficult for training sessions to be run to the standard Canberra United needs to perform on the national stage.
Not enough people are really aware of the program and we’re struggling with numbers.Brandon Stroud
But there is hope for the team. After competing in their second club championship and earning their first-ever competition point, Canberra United will look to continue their form and earn their first win at next year’s championships.
But the sport is more than goals and competition points, it’s about the athletes expressing themselves on the court and creating a community that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Playing a sport with like-minded athletes, knowing that they’re not there by themselves.Kelly Stirton
All of this has been possible thanks to the generosity of the Canberra community and the continued support of major sponsors of Rotary Canberra and Muscular Dystrophy.
The only thing left for the Canberra community to do is to get behind our team, spread of word about this fantastic competition, and get down there and have a go.