Pictured (L-R): Sarah Willington, Jarrod Larkins-Law, Jay Larkins, Jared Eiby & Declan Hart.
The Queensland Paralympic State Team will be attempting to go one better at the 2016 National Paralympic 7-a-side Football Championships starting next week.
Kicking off 27 October at Valentine Sports Park in Sydney, the tournament will see Queensland compete against New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and a combined state team (ACT, South Australia and NSW) in a round-robin format.
Queensland, to be captained by Jarrod Larkins-Law, will again be a strong contender after falling 1-0 to New South Wales in last year’s decider.
The nine-man squad contains plenty of Pararoos experience in Larkins-Law, Robbie Christie, Angus MacGregor and goalkeeper Jared Eiby, while Stacey Sarago-Ah Kee took part in a national team training camp earlier this year.
Rockhampton teenager Luke Warwick is a newcomer to the team.
Head Coach Jay Larkins, who will be assisted by Football Queensland’s Sarah Willington, believes Queensland can bring an end to New South Wales’ dominance.
“We’re always a chance. I believe in myself, I believe in the squad I have and you just do your best,” Larkins said.
“Ultimately, while everyone is thinking they should win, New South Wales scored a goal with five or six minutes to go in (last year’s) final and we went down 1-0.
“Yes we’re up against it but you never know.
“Now that we have the governing body in Football Queensland supporting us we can get ourselves into the same arena as what New South Wales have. The success they’re having is from a lot of hard work.
“Their elite program is one of the best in the country and happily now we can say with the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program being available for these guys we’re only a couple of steps behind.”
As well as providing a platform for players to reach the highest level, Larkins’ growing Brisbane Paralympic Football Program (BPFP) – which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016 – welcomes people of all ages and abilities to get involved in sport.
“I love the game of football and for all the years I’ve been involved I’ve never seen a rule that says you have to be of a certain ability to partake in the game,” he said.
“I think every football club should have an area where for once a week for an hour anyone kid who can’t make the grade can come along and be part of a club, be part of a community sports program.
“I’m lucky I’m getting that at the BPFP and at all the other programs we’ve created, and now a lot of Football Queensland clubs are coming board.
“We’re very patient. We just hope that everyone who supports us stays as patient because it doesn’t happen overnight. But I can guarantee with all of the support we’re getting it will happen.
“From the inclusive side, I think 2017 will be one of the most successful years we’ve had.”
Queensland opens its Nationals campaign against Western Australia next Thursday.
The final will be held on Sunday, 30 October.
QUEENSLAND PARALYMPIC STATE TEAM
1. Jared EIBY, 5. Luke WARWICK, 6. Robbie CHRISTIE, 7. James BERINGER, 8. Peter BYRNE, 9. Declan HART, 11. Angus MACGREGOR, 13. Jarrod LARKINS-LAW (c), 15. Stacey SARAGO-AH KEE
Head Coach: Jay LARKINS
Assistant Coach: Sarah WILLINGTON