Pssst: Visionaries for blind soccer

For a nation with a proud Paralympic history, you may be surprised to know that Australia has never fielded a visually impaired soccer team at the games. While that won’t change in Rio next year, two men who are intent on making sure that Australia does eventually get there are Dave Connolly and Tom Bevan. The pair founded Social Goal, an organisation seeking to promote inclusion in sport. On Sunday, Docklands will host the inaugural finals for the Victorian B-League, which is the first blind and impaired vision competition in Australia. The league came about through the joint efforts of Social Goal, and Blind Sport Victoria. Connolly, a Tasmanian who moved to Victoria a decade ago, said he has loved the game since playing it as a child, and wanted to provide the opportunity for everyone interested. While not certain, Connolly suggested that somewhat paradoxically the quality of vision in Australian society meant there were fewer chances for vision impaired players. “We’re pretty lucky that we have pretty good healthcare, and we don’t have as many blind people as other counties have,” Connolly told Pssst. But he also thought the relative weakness of soccer had been a contributing factor. “I’m not too sure, to be honest. I’d be thinking it’s maybe to do with soccer [not having] been as big. You sort of look at soccer or football a bit more now, but I think maybe that’s been left behind a little bit.” He said his long-term goal was to help create a pathway for vision-impaired players that could lead to a Victorian team, and ultimately a national side. Representatives from both Football Federation Victoria and Melbourne City will be on hand for the event, which is being held at Docklands’ multi-purpose sports field on Harbour Esplanade. The day’s first match kicks off at 1.30pm, and Connolly is excited. “Being able to provide [this] opportunity has been pretty amazing. We can make a fist and continue it, and grow it from here.”

Pat chat

Pat Rafter has had to deal with his fair share of bad boys in his leadership role at Tennis Australia. So having grappled with Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, Rafter this week turned his hand to dealing with Jake Carlisle. The at-times-troubled former Bomber spent last week on the Sunshine Coast along with his new St Kilda teammates, as the club embarked on its pre-season camp. In between the training and bonding, the Saints were addressed by dual grand slam champion Rafter, who urged players to be diligent and give themselves the best chance to succeed. Whether the Saints take it on board remains to be seen.

On turf wars

Essendon recruit Michael Hartley seems pretty low maintenance. Asked during an Age interview what he was most looking forward to having been drafted by the Bombers from VFL club Coburg, the tall backman nominated grass. “[I’m most looking forward to running on pretty good grass,” he said. “At Coburg it does get a little bit choppy, and the ground does get a little bit uneven.”

Room for Bigger bash

It’s been a big week for female athletes, with the Women’s Big Bash League getting under way and Essendon pressing to have their own side in the women’s AFL competition. And Melbourne City coach Joe Montemurro says that sports don’t have to be in competition with each other. “I don’t sort of want to make the comparisons to men’s sport or women’s sport,” he said. “Sport as a whole has been able to survive when the quality’s high and the standards and the marketing is of a high level. I don’t see where resourcing one sport is going to be detrimental or to the benefit of another sport.” City take on Melbourne Victory in what is just the second W-League derby on Sunday, and former the Victory coach says that the sporting landscape is big enough for everyone. “They need to be treated equally as professional sportspeople and treated equally as organisations. And I think we can all coexist. Fans want to see high-quality, high-level, exciting sport, whether it’s women’s football or women’s volleyball or men’s basketball.”

On media street

Trade period appears to have come late in the world of AFL club media departments. Having helped Hawthorn to three consecutive premierships, the Hawks’ communications manager Leah Mirabella is joining St Kilda. There’s also talk of change at two other Victorian clubs. And the movement isn’t confined to the AFL world, with Melbourne Victory media chief Andrew Holmes also to vacate his post soon.

Don and dusted

The exits continue in Essendon’s football department. Football technology manager Brendan Dodgson had his last day at the club on Friday, and football analyst Ander Rodoreda has also left Tullamarine, taking up a new job at Port Adelaide, where he starts on Monday.

A new Headspace 

Essendon and Monash Tigers cricket clubs will join forces with national youth counselling service Headspace on Sunday as they dedicate their Twenty20 clash to mental health issues. The sides will wear special uniforms to mark the occasion. Essendon captain Aaron Ayre, who made his debut earlier this summer for Victoria, is an ambassador for the organisation, and explained the importance of the issue. “We were coming up with ideas to try and raise some awareness about mental health issues in the pre-season,” Ayre said. “We wanted to get cricket in the spotlight. In team sports people can sometimes hide their emotions, so we want to encourage people to put their hand up if they are struggling.” Ayre thanked Monash for their involvement. “Monash were really quick to jump on board as well as TNF, who have sponsored the uniforms for the day. Headspace has helped with the planning, so it’s been a really easy process.” The match begins at Windy Hill at 2.30pm.


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Got a tip? Contact Daniel Cherny. Twitter: @danielcherny.

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