From the 2nd to the 5th of November 2023, the Wheelchair AFL National Championships will take place in Melbourne at the State Netball & Hockey Centre. The competition sees the best players from around the country come together for four days of fierce competition. This year, all states and territories will be represented along with teams from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Returned Services League of Australia (RSL).
The first national championships were held in 2016, and the competition has since gone from strength to strength and last year saw Victoria taking out the Division One trophy and the ADF team taking out Division Two. We can’t wait to watch, with two Pathways to Care participants representing their states!
We are incredibly proud to play a small role this year as partners of the Queensland team who are attending for the second year. With so many of our participants, sport and community involvement play a huge part in achieving their larger goals. We are committed to making sport accessible for as many people as possible, and one way we can help is by partnering with sporting organisations in the community.
We sat down with Jeff Neumann the Queensland Coach, and Michael Dobbie-Bridges the Queensland Captain to chat about their passion for the game, the work they are doing at grass roots and their hopes for the national championships.
From the Coach- Jeff Neumann
Q. Jeff, you are so heavily involved in Wheelchair AFL in Queensland, what is your motivation to see the sport thrive in Queensland and across the country? I am a passionate Queenslander, who grew up falling in love with the game and I have a wonderful opportunity to provide that same opportunity to every person that gives footy a go and I want to ensure I continue to progress the game, so it is accessible to everyone.
Q. The sport is still in its infancy in Queensland, where do you hope to see it in 5 years' time? In five years time, the pathway is completed and we have a sustainable model that is producing high end talent and an enjoyable experience for all ages.
Q. What do you see as the key factors in growing the sport? What are the challenges? Community focused and easily accessible offerings & opportunities to give AFL Wheelchair a go. We are very South East Queensland centric at the moment, our next challenge is to grow AFL Wheelchair in South West Queensland and Central/North Queensland and future proofing our SEQ offering with the complete pathway.
Q. How can those wanting to get involved in wheelchair AFL in Queensland do so? And do they need to bring their own equipment? Anyone looking to get involved can put in their expressions of interest https://www.aflq.com.au/wheelchair-afl/ and stay tuned to AFLQ.com.au for some exciting announcements on where and how to play in 2024. Those wanting to sample AFL Wheelchair can do so without having their own sport chair.
Q. What are you hoping the team achieve at this year's National Champs? This year’s nationals we will be looking to finish off this year’s program with improved results in 2023. This season has already been a success with the launch of the inaugural QWFL season and two-game Q-Clash series between the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast SUNS. If we can improve on our 4th place finish from last year’s Nationals, we will be stoked but we know the competition would have improved and we need to make sure we keep getting better and better.
From the captain- Michael Dobbie-Bridges
Q. For you Michael, what does the National Championships as a competition mean to you as a player? It is such an exciting time. The level of play is increasing every year across all the teams and its pretty cool that we can all watch each other in the various State based competitions in the lead up before testing ourselves against the best of the best each November.
Q. What does your training schedule and preparation look like in the lead-up to the National Champs? Following our successful Q-Clash series we kept the squads together so we could train as a bigger group before narrowing it down to the travelling team. We have one main session each week with the expectation that selected players are doing their own strength and conditioning sessions as well as working on their fundamentals outside of that. An exciting addition this year has been having the opportunity to bring in Leading Teams to help establish the key behaviors that will drive our team culture and assist us to achieve our team goals.
Q. As the captain of the Queensland team what responsibilities and leadership roles do you take on within the team? Over the year I have played a role in developing the entire QLD playing group and have also been part of the selection committee for the Q-clash series and the QLD State Team. Week to week it is really just about checking in on all our players to make sure they are getting what they need from myself and the coaching staff and building stronger relationships. Once we get down to Melbourne there will be some additional meetings to attend but the biggest role, I will have over the 5 days will be to ensure that as a group we are living our values and supporting the group to get the best out of themselves.
Q. What are your goals as a team for this year's comp? Division 1 finals would be a great starting point and then see where we end up.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring wheelchair AFL players who aim to someday represent their state? Get started, don’t be afraid to try something and ask lots of questions. Everyone in the AFL Wheelchair community is super supportive and willing to help out and it means a stronger competition across all States and Territories. Focusing on the fundamentals of footy, handballing, marking, pushing will always give you the best chance of making a difference at any level you play.
The games will be streamed on Kayo for those who can't attend the games but still want to support their state. The AFL Inclusion Facebook page as well as the Wheelchair AFL National Championship official website are the places to stay updated with competition news, draws, and results.
Be sure to tune in and watch what is sure to be the best National Championships yet!