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Footy fans across the country will tell you that football is not “just” football. Alongside fitness and fun, it provides a sense of community and connection with others that’s hard to beat.

Balloon Football League (BFL) is a version of Australian Rules Football that has been modified to suit the needs of people with a disability. The game first started in 1995 by three men with a disability. Today, it’s played by over 100 people across Victoria. One of them is Scope resident Ben Hill.

Each player has a support person on game day to push the wheelchair around the court. In Ben’s case, it’s his support worker, Neil. Ben’s sister Rebecca says they make a “formidable” team! “But they are also great teammates with the other participants,” she adds.

Rebecca is full of praise for the BFL. “It’s so well organized and run,” Rebecca says. “The students from Nazareth College (who organize, umpire and score the games) are amazing; but what I like most is that it breaks down social barriers. It becomes more about abilities and interaction for the students. They even organize and MC the John Bowen awards night. What an outstanding effort from these young people!”

Ben cleaned up at the awards last year, as Scope Coordinator Jarrod Crew recalls. Of Ben’s passion for the game, Jarrod says: “He is very competitive! He likes to win. He took home awards for the most goals, most valuable player, the coaches award, best and fairest… the list goes on!”

A man in a wheelchair and an exercise ball.
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A man in the wheelchairs with a headset with mic
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A man on a gym spin bike.
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Balloon Footy also featured in this year’s AFL Disability Inclusion Round, and Ben took part in a live interview on SEN to mark the occasion. We spoke to Ben and his support worker Neil to learn more.

Hi Ben, I hear you cleaned up at the recent John Bowen awards, congratulations! How do you feel about that?

I felt very proud and elated. It’s a fulfilling experience being recognised for my efforts.

What do you think makes you such a good player?

Being a good team player, my reach and working with Neil. I am very competitive.

What do you do to prepare for your match each week?

An equipment check for my wheelchair, physio during the week and a good warmup on match day.

Is there a favourite position you like to play?
Half Forward, which is a scoring position. And Half Back when the team needs me to.

Can you tell us about the interview you did with SEN? What was it like being on the radio?
I listened carefully and spoke slowly and softly. It was very exciting.

Two men are laughing and giving a thumbs up to the camera.
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The picture showing a presentation said: Scope
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A man in the wheelchair with 3 award trophies.
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A man sitting on a wheelchair holding a gold trophy cup and medal.
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The picture showing a presentation said: Scope
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Is there anything else you would like us to know about you, about BFL?
I play fair, and I play by the rules. It’s my favourite thing to do with Neil during the footy season.

I barrack for Sydney Swans and my #2 team is Hawthorn.

What do you hope the future of BFL will look like?
More teams and more players. State and national leagues one day I hope.

Thanks Ben – we hope so too!

The Balloon Football League is always looking for new players and volunteers. If you or someone you support would like to learn more, contact [email protected]

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