Balloon football brings out the competitive side in players with disab – Ausnew Home Care

Balloon football brings out the competitive side in players with disabilities vying for the grand final

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For players of the Balloon Football League, or BFL, the passion and competitiveness of the game is just as intense as AFL — the only difference being the players are disabled.

In the central Victorian town of Bendigo, keen fans have been gathering for the past seven years to barrack for their favourite players and teams in the BFL.

It is a sport which requires competitiveness, speed, sometimes the ability to manoeuvre a wheel chair, agility, team work, and a focus to win.

BFL Western Bulldogs player Jye Yates has been playing in the Bendigo League since it began.

Played on an indoor netball court, players bounce a large orange balloon off their arms, legs, body, head and wheelchairs, aiming to push the balloon through the goal posts.

Jye Yates sits in his wheelchair on the court of the Bendigo Stadium waiting for the Grandfinal to begin.
Jye Yates has been playing for the Bulldogs in the BFL for the past five years.(

ABC Central Victoria: Sian Gard


Modelled around modern-day Aussie rules, it is mainly non-contact with only a few scrapes, bumps, and bruises.

"You can use whatever you can use, like your hands or your head or your chair," Mr Yates said.

Mary Sullivan, a manager at disabilities service provider Scope, said the game was developed by three friends in the early nineties.

"It was started by a couple of guys who loved football but because of their disability didn't have the opportunity to play," Ms Sullivan said.

The sport has grown in popularity, and now has eight leagues with 244 players participating throughout the season across Victoria.

Helpers just as much a part of the action

The sport is not just for the players, it is also for the volunteers who act as field umpires, boundary umpires, scorers, time keepers and 'pushers' — people who help push the wheelchairs on court.

Members of the Hawks celebrate and hold the 2019 Bendigo Football League Cup aloft as they celebrate their win.
Hawks members Graham Thorp, Terry Stratford, Lee Gooch and Nicole McGregor celebrate winning the grand final.(

ABC Central Victoria: Sian Gard


It is a place where barriers are broken down and friendships are formed.

Sianha Newland, one of the volunteer students from Catherine McAuley College, has been involved in the Balloon Football League for the past two years.

"It definitely has changed my perspective of people with disabilities," Ms Newland said.

"I see them more as a person now, not as just someone different."

It also gives the passionate sports women and men a game to take part in and show off their skills on the court.

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