The 2012 Australian Paralympic Football Nationals were a great success and an indication of the continuing development of the sport in Australia.
The Paralympic Football Nationals, usually held in Sydney, were staged in Rockhampton in far North Queensland for the 2012 edition of the tournament. Terry Kennedy and David Pollard being instrumental in convincing Frenchville Sports Club to organise the event.
The 2012 Nationals were a momentous occasion for a number of reasons. Firstly, under the direction of Coach David Cantoni, it was the first opportunity for the boys from Western Australia to showcase the advancement of the development program in Perth.
"Western Australia play a great brand of football and even though their players are very young Cantoni has them on the right path and I look forward to seeing them again in the future,” said National Coach Paul Brown.
“The game against South Australia the other day was one of the best games I have seen at the Nationals. One thing that stood out was the discipline of the players and the shape that they managed to keep,” he said.
The 2012 Nationals were a good indication of how far the development of the game has come in Australia. From the outset the standard of football being played was very good.
Supporters and referees alike were amazed at the level of the football played. The other thing that stood out was the enthusiasm and courage of the players.
“It-s end to end football with lots of goals," said one spectator.
Bronze Medal winners South Australia (SA) upset Victoria to make the podium, the first time the SA team had received a medal at the Nationals.
An interesting point to note was that those States where the State bodies are fully supportive of the program seem to be excelling and it is only a matter of time before South Australia and Western Australia start to dominate.
“The 2012 Nationals highlighted the strength that we have at Junior level and it is these players that need to be developed for the next Paralympics in 2016. All squads have some good young players and some of those players will be invited to the next national camp,” said Brown.
“I was impressed with Brayden Davidson (SA), Stacey Sarago-Ahkee (QLD), James Turner (NSW,) Ryan Kinner (SA) and Connor Marsh (NSW). James, Ryan and Connor have already represented their country at International level and have a very good career ahead of them.”
The gold medal match between Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) was of a high standard but the increased depth of the NSW side eventually became the difference. NSW boasting six National players and the combinations that they have built at International level continue to dominate at the Nationals.
Ben Atkins, Jack Williams (Player of the tournament), Chris Pyne, Connor Marsh, James Turner and Brett Fairhall were a decisive force and their speed, movement and passing accuracy in around the box was phenomenal.
Queensland, led by National Captain, David Barber also boasted some good young players. Stacey Sarago-Ahkee, Queensland-s player of the tournament, was a standout - scoring in the final.
According to Brown; “The Nationals competition gets stronger and more popular each year with a number of States vying for the honour of hosting the competition. It will not be too long before all States are represented at this level. This can only benefit the National program in the long run.”