Winners abound at Struggle Street

NSW Powerchair Football

West Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC

2pm Saturday 9th May

Kevin Betts Wheelchair Sports Stadium, Mount Druitt


With the Panthers, Swans and Waratahs all playing out of state, I was bereft of any hometown support for the weekend.  That was until I saw a Twitter post from a friend who is a member of the Red and Black Bloc saying he was on his way to support the West Sydney Wanderers in the New South Wales Powerchair Football Association.

Powerchair football is a variation on football in which two teams of four players in electric wheelchairs compete of two 20 minute halves.

Each custom-made machine has a three bar metal cage fitted to the chairs which are used to knock the ball, larger than a regular football, to teammates and into the goal.

It also shares similarities with futsal and wheelchair rugby, particularly in regards to physicality; powerchair football isn’t a game for the weak at heart. Those cages at the front of the chair are solid and heavy. When coupled with the speed generated by the motorised chairs, which I would describe as just a little short of your average bumper car at the carnival, the bumper-to-bumper hitting is loud and crushing.

Powerchair football started in France in the 1970s before spreading to the United States in the 1980s, eventually leading to the creation of an international organisation and set of rules for the sport in 2005. The third World Cup is due to be held later this year. Powerchair football remains a relatively new in Australia, with the first organised tournaments beginning in 2010.

The four New South Wales A-League teams all compete on the powerchair football court in the PFA NSW Western Sydney division.

I am joined on the bench seats behind one of the goals by a handful of members of the RBB and a member of the Wanderers W League team. Matches are often attended by members of the A-League, Under 20 and W-League squads.

I was surprised the playing area wasn’t bounded by boards which would keep the large ball in play, instead when the ball crosses the line the ball is “kicked in” much in the same way a throw in happens in regular football.

Sydney FC open the scoring from a clever set play from a kick in, with the shot a powerful strike as the scorer spun on their axis and connected with the side of the foot guard. They’re awarded a second goal as the ball dribbles onto the line and they hold a 2 goal advantage at half time.

The Wanderers set up a strong defensive line to commence the second half, I cant help but say to my mate “this puts a whole new meaning to parking the bus.”

Wanderers finally get some open play and grab a goal with a shot beating the Sydney keeper who couldn’t reverse back in time to block the shot. An equaliser comes from a smart set piece play from a sideline kick in.

From the restart FC intercepts a pass and quickly re-establishes their lead.

With only 3 minutes left the Wanderers charge down the court, passing across the goal and the shot from the front of the foot guard is powered through the goal as the goal scorer relishes the enthusiastic cheers from the RBB.

The final couple of minutes sees both teams trying to break the deadlock. The clock stops tantalising with 90 seconds to go, it’s all in the hands of the referee when this game will end, and as the ball gets knocked out-of-bounds once again the full-time whistle is blown.

The Wanderers players motor down towards the RBB and are met with a rousing “Who do we sing for?” The players respond with “We sing for Wanderers.” The RBB members chant as they would for their A-League heroes.

The players then ask “Who do we sing for?” And the RBB enthusiastically chant “We sing for Wanderers.”

It’s a great moment, and the players absolutely love it. Most importantly, they absolutely deserve it.

Whether you’re a Mariner, Jet, Wanderer or Sky Blue, if you’re in Sydney and are looking for something different to see on a Saturday afternoon, get out to Struggle Street and support a group of sportsmen and women who give it their all.

About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.

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