Central Australian teenager Caleb Namatjira-McMillan is in a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop him from playing football.
The 18-year-old has Category 1 cerebral palsy, which means he will never be able to walk and needs help with daily chores.
“We tried inclusive sports around town and they see the wheelchair and they say, ‘Oh, we’re not quite there’, or ‘We can’t put that on a pitch’, la Mr. Namatjira-McMillan’s tutor, Anne-Marie Temple, said.
But the turning point came when they met Tommy Dutton, the AFL’s remote development manager in Central Australia.
“We went down to the (AFL) offices here and said, ‘This is what we have, this is what we work with. “
“We really want to be part of the AFL – how do we get there? “”
“Tommy hasn’t even blinked, he just wants’ yes we can do it, and we’ll get there,” Ms Temple said.
Now Mr Namatjira-McMillan plays AFL every Wednesday, as part of a new program in Alice Springs for people who want to play sports but cannot engage with existing clubs.
“It makes you feel in the end that you weren’t just a label,” Ms. Temple said.
Sport and social bond
The program is still in its infancy, but Mr Dutton said there has already been an interest of 50 people.
“I realized there was a greater need to involve more community members who may be lacking in programs like this,” he said.
“It’s for the whole community, so the people who maybe aren’t engaged, maybe they’re not working right now, or they’re on a disability plan and they’re looking for programs. where they can just be involved but be socially connected. “
Ms Temple said the effect on Mr Namatjira-McMillan’s life had been profound.
“[Tommy] really made an impact on our lives because he made Caleb feel that he was not just an observer of his community – he is an active member of his community, ”she said.
The notoriety of social networks
Ms Temple said she documented Mr Namatjira-McMillan’s football training sessions and posted videos on TikTok.
She didn’t realize the significance of these videos until she and Mr. Namatjira-McMillan visited her home community to help coach an AFL junior team.
“We went out and Caleb said hello to the whole team and they all said to me ‘He’s my uncle, he’s my cousin,'” she said.
“And then all of a sudden I hear that ‘tick, tick, tick’ – and everyone had been watching it on TikTok.
“They can see Caleb isn’t just that uncle or nephew that’s right there, he’s an active party.
“He does what they do – he plays soccer.”