In its inaugural season, wheelchair AFL in Queensland has taken off, building to an intense finals series between the four foundation clubs. Following the conclusion of the season, QClash returns in September, and both the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast SUNS have named their number one draft picks.
The Lions selected player and captain-coach of the Morningside Panthers, Queensland representative, and All-Australian Michael Dobbie-Bridges, while the SUNS selected player and captain-coach of the Ormeau Bulldogs, Queensland representative, and All-Australian Andrew Miller.
Playing in the inaugural QClash in 2022, Morningside’s Michael Dobbie-Bridges is a part of the foundation group who worked to launch Queensland’s wheelchair AFL state league.
“I’m from Victoria originally, and I saw my mates playing wheelchair footy down there and I was jealous we didn’t have the opportunity to play it here in Queensland,” he said.
“I got involved in discussions with the AFL Queensland team, and from there, we held a few come and try sessions. The interest was so high that in 2022, we held our first QClash series, with the Lions taking home the win.
“This then led to the launch of Queensland’s first state wheelchair competition in 2023 with four foundation clubs – Morningside Panthers, Ormeau Bulldogs, Redcliffe Tigers, and Beenleigh Buffaloes.”
“I love the integration into the clubs and the support we get as another avenue of football. My son is three and he doesn’t understand the difference between the variations of football. He tells his friends and their parents that his dad plays for the Brisbane Lions, so it’s a really lovely moment.”
Having played for the Lions in QClash 2022, Dobbie-Bridges prides himself on being an example for kids coming through the sport.
“We’re able to give more opportunities to kids to play football and we have a responsibility to be a positive example for future generations of kids with disabilities,” he said.
As a recent recruit to wheelchair AFL from wheelchair basketball, Ormeau’s Andrew Miller was humbled to be named the Gold Coast SUNS number one draft pick ahead of QClash in September.
“It was a big surprise and very humbling to be selected to play QClash again for the Gold Coast SUNS,” he said.
“I love coaching the Ormeau Bulldogs and my players are amazing. They’re kicking goals and it’s a proud moment that we can take to the next level of the game,” he said.
“Hopefully I can bring some of my teammates to the QClash, because it’s rewarding seeing others develop and grow. Being selected as captain is another opportunity to see more people from other clubs develop as well.
“QClash this year will bring intense game play and a lot of sportsmanship. For the SUNS, our focus will be on respecting umpires and their decisions, as it has been for the Ormeau Bulldogs this season.”
Before the Lions and SUNS take to the field for QClash, the Queensland Wheelchair Semi-Finals and Grand Final will take place, crowing the first premiers of the Queensland Wheelchair AFL league.
The undefeated Morningside Panthers will take on the Ormeau Bulldogs in what is sure to be a tightly fought match up.
“We’re undefeated and on top of the ladder, so we are going into finals feeling comfortable where we stand,” Dobbie-Bridges said. “
“The intensity will go up in finals as it does, but we’re pleased we’ve achieved our team outcomes through the first five weeks. Simple things like pushing hard for each other, being there for your teammates, and being supportive.”
Andrew Miller is looking forward to the match up and promoting the game to a wider audience.
“Wheelchair AFL is a developing sport, and the rules are constantly evolving, but everyone has the right attitude towards the game, each other, and developing,” he said.
“At Ormeau, we’ve had a great season and welcomed so many new players. Our goal wasn’t to win the series, but to get every player to kick a goal, so hopefully we can get our last player across the line against the Panthers.”
The Queensland Wheelchair Semi-Finals matches will be played at the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre on Sunday 13 August, with the winners playing in the grand final at Nissan Arean on Sunday 20 August.