PUSHING IT TO THE LIMITS
The National Electric Wheelchair Sports (N.E.W.S.) is the governing and national body of electric wheelchair sports across Australia. N.E.W.S. has been running for two years now. It hosts an annual State Carnival in Sydney to determine which team is the best out of all states/territories in Australia.
To be eligible, players must use electric powered wheelchairs and must have some form of neuromuscular condition. Selection of state representatives may vary throughout states. In South Australia, aside from the eligibility status of players, players are usually picked from the local competition called Push and Powered Sports Association (P.A.P.S.A.)
Push and Powered Sports Association (P.A.P.S.A.) is a local competition (run in conjunction with Disability and Recreational Sports SA (DRSSA) which offers three specialised wheelchair sports for players to compete in. Both the local and state competitions play the exact same sports, hence why it is a perfect practice field for fledgling and eager young players who wish to one day represent the state. The competition itself has been running since the late 80s/early 90s, and has been played at different venues such as Regency Park School, Torrensville Primary and other various schools. The current venue for the past three years has been St. Paul’s College, located on 792 Grand Junction Road, Gilles Plains SA 5086. It is usually held each Monday from 7:00-8:30pm (seasons usually start in April/May and goes until early-to-mid-December). For more information, contact DRSSA’s Jacob Gracey on 8234 1533.
What are the three specialised sports?
Players compete in all three specialised sports. These sports include Wheelchair Balloon Soccer, Wheelchair Touch Rugby and Wheelchair Hockey.
Wheelchair Balloon Soccer is known as the crux of N.E.W.S. competition, with it being the most exciting and competitive to compete in. A 5-a side sport, it was created right here in South Australia during the 70s by a teacher at Regency Park School. The original game involved a basketball or soccer ball and the umpire bouncing it in the middle of the court to commence proceedings. The ball movement back then is the same as now, moving it via your wheelchair.
Since then though the evolution of the game has drastically changed, including the use of a specialised balloon similar in size to a weather balloon and as light as a normal balloon, as well as the introduction of boundary lines and off-side line, positions introduced, and goals more similar to soccer goals (goals use to be just two posts with no cross post at the top like AFL).
Wheelchair Touch Rugby is considered a more cerebral game, focusing and relying on one’s skill in remembering numbers and strategising tactical plays. Also a 5-a side sport, the principles are similar to that of Rugby League. That is to pass the ball backwards to advance forward and penetrate the opponent’s defense to score a try. The main striking difference is the fact this game does not use a ball for movement, and that is where quick thinking and memory are needed.
The last sport we have is Wheelchair Hockey. Like the two aforementioned sports, this one also requires 5-a side and is fairly competitive. Those who are able to hold a hockey stick with their arms tend to play in more offensive-orientated roles to try and score, while those who use a specialised ‘T-Stick’ in front of their protective bumper can be cast into roles of defense or blocking for the offensive player. It is a game of ebbs and flows, with the pace of the game changing in a matter of moments, making for a very entertaining game.