Three deaf and hard of hearing men played representative level in the Vawdon Cup and they played in the grand finals last weekend. Aydan Marsters from Manly Warringah Touch, who played for the Youth’s division came second while Paina Pirika and Gordon Townsend from Penrith Touch became winners of the Men’s Division 4 Grand Finals.
Aydan’s family and supporters couldn’t have been prouder of his achievements to date, such as being part of a club who came first in the State Cup last year and Aydan have played for Sydney Scorpions. Introduced to Touch Football ten years ago by his uncle and father, Aydan’s goals are now to play on an international stage and at World Cup. Aydan is also the captain of his Manly Youth division side.
His coach Scott Collins has known Aydan for a couple of years now. “Aydan is a great young man and a very, very good touch football player. He is very respectful and enjoys the respect of his team mates on and off the field.”
Asked about working with Aydan with his limited hearing in the sport, Coach Collins doesn’t see Aydan any different from others. “I spoke to his father very early on, just to understand what challenges, if any, that we may face, and he alleviated most of these concerns. I watched Aydan play and all the boys in the team have played with him before. He has learned to adapt very well as have the players and coaches around him.”
Reflecting on his coaching experience and the advantage that Aydan’s deafness may have had on his overall performance, Coach Collins said that Aydan certainly doesn’t use his deafness as an excuse. “I would like to think I have not treated him any differently to the other players in the team. I don’t know but, in some ways, his deafness may be an ironic advantage as he seems to concentrate and comprehend information better than some of the other players!”
In Western Sydney, Gordon and Paina, brothers from a family of four deaf members, played touch rugby in New Zealand as young boys. They also played socially with friends, family and they played in their local club in South Auckland during their youth. Both men moved to Sydney in their mid 20’s where they were introduced to NSW Deaf Touch Football before playing local touch competitions.
About one year prior to winning at the last Australian Deaf Games (2018) in Wodonga, both brothers became very active in touch football at their local club – Penrith Touch Association. This year, an opportunity rose for the brothers to play in the Vawdon Cup against other representative club teams.
Their coach Paul Krahe has only known them for a short time. He did have concerns for them when he found out they were both deaf. As an experienced coach, he adapted his training and worked with them individually to make sure they were on the same page. He also noticed that the boys had their way of understanding body language and reading lips to pick up a lot of information. Gordon, also known as Robbie, played in the link position and Paina was the winger. The brothers practised their strategic moves at trainings and doing so taught them knowledge of what had to be done on the field.
“Gordon was very versatile and showed he could adapt to any style of play that was thrown at him. He did go through a small rough patch, but with the right attitude and determination, he turned his game around and was a real force in our side. He has great speed and agility for a guy his size and is a quiet achiever in the team.” Krahe says.
“Paina was a shining light on the wing. Defensively, he became one of our best wingers. Adapting to our defensive pattern and getting himself in the channel, he took quite a few intercepts throughout the year. Paina is very, very solid in his attack. He is always standing wide like a good winger and never dropped a ball that came his way. Scoring 2 points in the Grand Final was a real credit to him.”
Krahe summarises their overall performance as having exceeded beyond one’s expectation. “Both guys are a pleasure to coach. They would listen when needed and really believed in the system we were running. They were that good, our oppositions were amazed to find out they were deaf as they fit in with the rest of the team. It’s a real honour to have them both represent our great club.”
The coaches’ similar experiences echo one effective communication means – to give instructions when deaf and hard of hearing players are in the box and not while they’re on the field.
Aydan Marsters hope to play for Manly at the Senior State Cup this year, organised by NSW Touch Association. The event will take place in Port Macquarie during December. Aydan, Gordon and Paina will be representing for New South Wales at the next National Deaf Touch Football Championship. Deaf Touch Football Australia is currently planning the next national championship, hopefully in Canberra during April next year.
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