Mitchell Rangers All Abilities program kicks off for 2022 season
Smiles and laughter were in abundance at Thornbury’s Hayes Park on Sunday afternoon as the Mitchell Rangers All Abilities team kicked off their 2022 season.
The only such program in the Mitchell Shire, the team aims to give everyone a chance to play football, with matches usually taking place fortnightly.
Coach Paul Sirianni explained how the programme, now in its seventh season, came about and what he hoped players would gain from their involvement.
“It all started in 2016 when a disabled person asked how the senior team was doing and said ‘I wouldn’t mind playing’, so that sowed the seed,” Sirianni said.
“So we took him to the club for a kick and it pretty much started from there.
“Our goal is to help people who want to play football to be able to play; everyone deserves a chance to play the game no matter what position you are in, if you want to play we will make it happen.
The program was very successful in its early days, with a large number of players coming in and getting involved in the fun.
But, as with all community sports clubs, Mitchell Rangers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the rebuilding process just beginning to resume.
“It grew astronomically in 2017 and 2018, we had 22 adult players and around five or six juniors as well,” Sirianni said.
“But then COVID-19 hit and the numbers have certainly come down since then, I think at the moment we have somewhere around 12 players registered, so we hope the restrictions continue to ease more players. .
“We are the only club that does not charge our players; they get a team jersey, we pay for the insurance and register them, so there’s no cost – we just want to see the players go out and have fun.
After going through so much post-pandemic hardship, Sirianni said it was just wonderful to be back on the pitch.
“It was wonderful,” he said.
“We usually play seven on a pitch, but some guys just can’t stand up on the bench, so we let them all go play.
“Players who are struggling to reach the ball and kick it, we make sure to tell the other players to let them try, just so everyone feels involved and participates.
“Everyone had a great time and we are already looking forward to our next match.”
The Mitchell Rangers All Abilities team practices Wednesdays from 5:30-6:30pm at Broadford Secondary College, all are welcome to come and get involved.