The VWFL is a state-level competition for wheelchair football, held over winter in Melbourne. As of 2019, teams from five major AFL clubs compete in the VWFL across ten rounds, in a season that runs from May to September. The draft is open to players of all genders and irrespective of disability.
Uncommonly inclusive for a formal sporting contest, let alone one in an elite setting, these qualities enticed me to a wheelchair football skills day even at the peak of summer. Soon, St Kilda coach Marcus “Muzz” Sander was in touch to welcome me onto his team alongside Jude Antony, Chris Arulnesathasan, Paul de Santo, Alex Gale-Grime, Grant Maynard, Patrick McKay, Lenny Redrose and Ryan Smith.
I was still at this point familiar really with neither Australian Rules nor wheelchair sports. So, I bounced a footy along roadsides—incongruously, as I was overseas for most of the bouncing—to get a sense of the ball and arranged hire of an appropriate wheelchair from Disability Sport & Recreation (DSR) back in Melbourne. DSR’s provision of personal access to a sports chair was invaluable, enabling me to join my teammates for the last weeks of pre-season training.
A few days before our first match for the year, St Kilda Football Club threw their VWFL team a jumper presentation ceremony. They had organised a warm and thorough welcome around it, for players, friends and family. This included a tour of the club’s base, RSEA Park in Moorabbin, where all of St Kilda’s teams train and scores of friendly people work in support of both professional football and community interests. A bunch of them we got to meet, not least in a packed weekly meeting, with the wheelchair team constituting an agenda item ourselves. Therein lay the jumpers! It was exciting and affirming to be treated to such a lovely atmosphere far beyond the wheelch footy circle and learn about the club’s commitment to a whole set of community programmes that we are encouraged to support.
Each match is held on a Sunday at:
Boroondara Sports Complex
271 Belmore Rd, North Balwyn 3104
The 2019 fixture has been updated since the start of the season. The Saints are now playing: