For former army engineer Nigel Greenslade, wheelchair sport isn’t just a pastime, it’s a lifesaver.
- The first wheelchair football league has launched in South Australia
- It welcomes players from all backgrounds
- The teams are aligned with existing professional teams
“Wheelchair sport has saved my life, it’s lifesaving” Mr Greenslade said.
He led an active sporting life and played rugby for South Australia before a workplace accident changed his life.
“We were building a bridge and some panels collapsed on me … I thought I was going to die,” he said.
As he went through his recovery and realised, he would not return to his sporting endeavours, his demons grew.
“I have had thoughts about getting off this planet, I locked myself away in my house for a few years,” he said.
Despite those challenges, he recovered in-part through the help of wheelchair sports.
After his long journey back, he has been named captain of Central District Football Club’s inaugural wheelchair football team.
“I remember back into the 80s — all I wanted to do was play for Central District when I was a kid,” he said.
“To be able to put on this strip, the same strip that some of those legends had, is outstanding.
“From being depressed at home, doing nothing, to thinking bad thoughts to getting out here and having a go, to pushing my boundaries, trying to get fit, to chase the kids, to see the expressions, to share some joy — it’s been great.”
‘It opens their eyes’
As a familiar red ball flies through the air, the thud of body-on-body is replaced with the clattering of metal-on-metal.
It’s football, just not as you might know it.
The game is played on a basketball court with goals at each end.
Players chase each other along a sprung wooden floor, as shouts of encouragement battle umpires’ whistles that echo around the stadium.
Four South Australian state-league teams — Sturt, Norwood, Woodville West Torrens and Central District — have squads in this year’s competition.
Five players take the court at a time. A throw is a handball, a handball is a kick, and a touch is a tackle.
There’s holding the ball and participants put everything on the line with players tipping their chairs in the heat of battle.
From war veterans to refugees, the league welcomes all.
Lloyd Banwell lost his leg in a workplace accident after playing more than 400 amateur football games for Salisbury North in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
For him the opportunity for people with disabilities to play alongside those who did not provides an opportunity to educate.
“It opens their eyes up as well you know, how hard it is you know to get around in a wheelchair,” Mr Banwell said.
The opportunity to share experiences goes even further for war veteran Darren Peters.
After multiple overseas deployments to wars including Iraq and Afghanistan, his injuries left him unable to play sport.
Wheelchair sports have given him the outlet he needed to recover from his service.
“I came out of there and I had chronic injuries, and chronic PTSD and depression, which I openly talk about,” Mr Peters said.
He said the unique nature of the game helped people share in a love of sport and a special camaraderie.
“On here, everyone’s the same. So, we chat about the same problems, if someone’s got mental health problems we say, ‘hey, this is what I did, it may work for you’ and it just gives them ideas about how to potentially change their lives,” he said.
“That’s why I love playing this sport with everyone on the court at the moment.”