The 2019 AFL National Inclusion Carnival has successfully concluded following a week-long carnival in Blacktown, New South Wales.
The AFL National Inclusion Carnival brings together male footballers aged 16 years and over with an intellectual disability from across the country to take part in a round-robin carnival.
Throughout the week, players took part in a number of educational sessions, competed in a Lightning Carnival and a three-match round robin series in their respective Divisions, before playing finals under lights at Blacktown International Sportspark on Friday July 19.
For the first time ever, a female super clinic was featured at the National Inclusion Carnival, to support the growth of the sport in the female inclusion space.
After winning the past three National Carnivals, the VIC METRO team were always going to be hard to beat. VIC COUNTRY were also looking to improve on their previous performances, after finishing third at last years carnival.
Both Victorian sides played well during the Lightning Carnival, with METRO narrowly defeating Northern Territory who announced themselves as one of the teams to watch. Both teams progressed through to Division 1, with South Australia also joining the NT in the four-team Division 1.
For many years, players with intellectual disabilities from Victoria and South Australia competed in an annual State of Origin match. In 2013, players from NSW/ACT joined the carnival and Victoria was split into two teams (Metro and Country) to form a four-team competition.
Victoria Country was victorious in the 2014 carnival. The following year, Victoria Metro claimed the honours and went on to claim the next three Division 1 titles, defeating South Australia in Melbourne in 2016, NSW/ACT on the Gold Coast in 2017 and most recently South Australia in Tasmania in 2018.
However, it was clear from the beginning of the 2019 Carnival that each team had developed further since the previous year, making it an exciting and competitive showcase of football.
The Division 1 Pool matches were closely contested over Thursday and Friday morning, however, it was Northern Territory with strong wins who placed themselves in top spot and into Friday night’s Grand Final.
VIC COUNTRY and VIC METRO played off in the final pool match, with METRO booking themselves a spot in the Grand Final. METRO was too strong for the fast-paced VIC COUNTRY side, defeating them by five points.
VIC COUNTRY would go on to defeat South Australia by 1 point, for third place in a nail-biter finish, with a late goal from Hary Hunter.
In the Grand Final, VIC METRO and Northern Territory put on the game of the Carnival under lights and a fantastic display of football and sportsmanship. It was however the hard-running Northern Territory team who were victorious by five points.
Although football was the focus for the week, teams also took part in education sessions focusing on Mindfulness, Leadership and Cyber Safety, as well as getting the chance to see Sydney Harbour, a first for many of the players.
Congratulations to Blade Richardson who was the Most Valuable Player for Victoria Country and Kelvin O’Connor who was the Most Valuable Player for Victoria Metro at this year’s carnival.
The AFL has also announced the 2019 Inclusion All-Australian squad, with AFL Victoria Country’s Steven Reeves as coach.
The respective squad of 26 men have been chosen based on each player’s demonstration of leadership, passion, teamwork and outstanding football ability.
For the first time, the All-Australian squad will travel to Brisbane to take part in an exhibition match at the 2019 INAS Global Games in October.
Congratulations to the following Victorian players who will be representing the state in the 2019 AFL Inclusion All-Australian squad.
- Allan Meiklem
- Dave Alford
- Shaun Doll
- Hary Hunter
- Yaser Shubeilat
- Damien Clarke
- Jackson Reeves
AFL Victoria would like to thank WISE Employment for their ongoing support and sponsorship of the VIC COUNTRY and VIC METRO teams at the Nationals, Variety Victoria for supporting our U18 athletes and the FIDA Committee for their ongoing work in supporting the Victorian FIDA Football League and the National Inclusion Carnival program.
For more information on the National Inclusion Carnival, visit http://community.afl/all-abilities/programs/national-inclusion-carnival.