Ausnew Home Care | Starkick program and Hand in Hand Walk for Inclusion opens gates for all kids to play football

Starkick program and Hand in Hand Walk for Inclusion opens gates for all kids to play football

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Just over 2,000 kilometres north of Perth, organised chaos is unfolding on Broome's main playing field.

It is early Saturday morning and hundreds of excited children have taken to Nipper Roe Oval for the week's Auskick games.

In a football-mad town that has produced players the calibre of Bailey Banfield (Fremantle) and Joel Hamling (Sydney), the park's games represent an introduction to the sport.

But for the past month, another group of footy lovers have started to share the turf — the enthusiastic, energetic and excited children who make up the town's very first Starkick clinic.

Smiling girl in pink kicks blue football as man cheers behind.
The clinic is part of Saturday morning football at Broome's Nipper Roe Oval.(Supplied: Paul Bell)

Starkick is an all abilities football program for 5–17 year olds who, "by circumstance or choice, may be unable or unwilling to participate in a mainstream sporting team".

Broome Senior High School student Landen Stubbs is one of 10 participants who eagerly looked forward to the weekend clinics.

Landen used to play football as a junior but put his game on pause when it became more complex.

"It's [Starkick] better because it's easier to understand and there is more teamwork," he said.

Boy holds football with other football players behind him, smiling
Landen Stubbs prepares to boot the football in the modified version of the game.(Supplied: Paul Bell)

While Landen's favourite team changed week to week, he said his favourite part of the game was "kicking goals".

The Broome clinic represented the program's first foray into Western Australia's far north.

Boy handballing a football into a tent with other young teenagers waiting behind
Children learn key football skills over the term-long program.(Supplied: Paul Bell)

Broome Starkick and Auskick coordinator Adam Goedecke said the modified football program ensured a safe and inclusive environment.

"It is an amazing opportunity for these kids to get involved in something that they probably, in the past, haven't felt comfortable getting involved with," he said.

"It provides a structured space for them to come down and feel comfortable.

"They're playing on the same oval as 180 other kids of similar age. It's all about fun and laughter."

Boy wearing cap smiles and holds four footballs on a oval in Broome
Ten children in Broome participated in the first Starkick clinic in Broome.(Supplied: Paul Bell)

Landen's mother, Tracy Mathers, said it had been amazing to watch her son return to the game.

"As he got older and the rules got more complex, he just couldn't follow them," she said.

"It's still football, so now he gets to play it in a way where he can actually join in and do it properly."

Woman standing next to her son, smiling, holding a football.
Tracy said it had been fantastic to see her son play football again.(Supplied: ABC Kimberley)

Under the bright lights of Perth Stadium 

While Landen said he was excited to return to community sport, he never expected to play in front of more than 46,000 fans.

Two women and Landen clapping as fire work goes off behind them at the stadium
Landen said his favourite part of the trip was playing on the oval and high-fiving people in the crowd.(Supplied: Starkick)

On Friday night, the 13-year-old represented Broome in the Hand in Hand Walk for Inclusion over the Perth Matagarup Bridge ahead of Fremantle's match against ladder-leading Sydney.

Dozens of people made their way across a large bridge in Perth holding banners and wearing football uniforms
Dozens of people made their way across the Matagarup Bridge for the Hand in Hand walk.(Supplied: Starkick)

He also played at half-time at the stadium with other participants, drawing plenty of support from the crowd.

"It was so much fun," Landen said.

"I got to high five people in the crowd as we ran off the field."

Boy in wheelchair holding football playing football with other young children on the field.
Dozens of Starkick participants from across WA took to Perth Stadium oval on Friday night.(Supplied: Starkick)
Source: ABC

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