The 2013 Paralympic Football Nationals has attracted an enormous amount of attention and for good reason. This year the Paralympic Nationals will be played in Coffs Harbour alongside the able bodied Boy’s Nationals, a testament to the growing popularity of the sport. Secondly, Queensland, NSW, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and the ACT will be represented, with Tasmania and the Northern Territory undertaking plans for appearances in next years competition.
Last year, Queensland and NSW were the teams to beat with NSW defeating QLD for the Gold Medal in the final match. This year is shaping up to be a similar scenario with both teams hosting a number of national players. NSW, on paper, continues to look strong with Pararoos Chris Pyne, Ben Atkins, James Turner and Jack Williams in the starting line up. It will be up to these players to close down Pararoo Captain, David Barber, and Queenslanders Jarrod Larkins-Law and Scott Kennedy who will be the driving force behind the Maroon’s attack. All these players have just returned from Europe where they competed in the Intercontinental Cup, so a high standard of football is expected.
In 2011, both South Australia and Western Australia adopted fully funded Paralympic Football state programs and surprised many with their confidence and ability. Both teams played good passing games and demonstrated fine technical ability.
This year South Australia will be boosted with the return of Pararoo midfielders Thomas Goodman and rising star, Ryan Kinner, who both played an important role in the Pararoo performances in Spain, in July. They will be backed up by a good young Goalkeeper, Tim Moore, who has only just missed out on Pararoo selection. Last year, Moore was dominant between the posts for South Australia and another good performance could see him representing his state at the next national camp in November.
Western Australia will be led by Captain and starting Pararoo Goalkeeper, Chris Barty who has been solid at the back for the National Team. An extra year of experience and development would have done him the world of good and it will be interesting to see how Coach and ex Pararoo, David Cantoni, approaches this tournament. Michael Debenham will also be dominant for Western Australia, but he will have to be technically strong to counter the fluid crisp passing of NSW who they play on the first day of the tournament.
Victoria boasts a number of players that have competed at this level including long time Pararoo, Ben Roche. Roche has not been active on the international scene for sometime, but has proven himself time and time again both at national and international level. A prolific goal scorer with a huge heart and competitive spirit, Roche has the ability to score from any situation. He will have to be marked heavily to reduce his dominance and effectiveness on the field.
The Victorian team has a number of players that have been on the fringe of international representation, for example, Joseph Accetta, who’s strong runs can at times unsettle the opposing side. It will be interesting to see what changes, incoming coach, George Tsangas makes in his debut tournament. The squad is also bolstered by newcomer Cameron Gudgeon, from the ACT, who has made the transfer from Futsal to Paralympic Football. Gudgeon has speed to burn, can sniff a goal and should bring a new dimension to the Victorian attack.
Paralympic football continues to grow in popularity and exposure and this tournament will be a testimony to the hard work and dedication of state federation acceptance of Paralympic Football as the number one Football for athletes with a disability.
Australian Paralympic Football Head Coach