On the weekend of 11-14 October 2019, I went to Wellington as the coach for the Waikato regional Boccia team. What? What is Boccia? It’s similar to French Boules and is probably one of the most exciting, skilful games on the planet and we have a club here in Hamilton. Boccia is a Paralympic sport played by people who have Cerebral Palsy and muscular degenerative conditions such as Muscular Dystrophy. In order to explain the significance of this weekend I have to take you back in time a bit.
I have been involved in this sport as a volunteer since 1998. I began as a club volunteer in Auckland and soon realised that the rules of the sport were fascinating and so I learned them, understood them and this led to a greater understanding of how the game is played competitively. Boccia New Zealand invited me to develop refereeing in New Zealand which led to years of being involved at a number of levels with various roles in the organisation. I spent much of my time delivering training courses and refereeing across the country. I was the Head Referee at most tournaments for far too many years to recollect.
In 2003, I was qualified as an International referee in Boccia and took part in my first World Cup in Christchurch. I have been the National Manager and have taken the team to Rio de Janeiro, and Kuala Lumpur. We returned home as World Champs in 2006 from Rio. I’m very proud of that fact. However, my highlight was being asked to officiate at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
When I moved to Hamilton 8 years ago, I was approached by Parafed Waikato and asked if I could start a Boccia club here. Challenge accepted. The club grew from one evening per week to two. As a referee I always keep my finger on the pulse of the game. To manage the club was a real treat and I get to meet and hang out with some amazing families.
This year was our biggest year in terms of representation at our Nationals. With the help of Parafed Waikato and The Lion Foundation, we managed to secure funds to pay for two people to fly from Hamilton plus we secured accommodation for 8 people. Unfortunately, Viktor, the coach that we have been training up and who had been putting in a great number of hours into preparing the players, was unable to get the time off work so I was asked to step in as the coach for the event. I am very proud to have been part of their weekend. It was difficult to be there and resist the temptation to referee. As coach, I had plenty to do to keep me occupied.
The four players – Troy, Cian, Maurice and Rhys – played proudly for their region and returned home with medals. Maurice Toon (Paralympic silver medalist Athens 2004) came home with Gold in the Teams event and the BC2 individual event. Troy Robertson (NZ Player 2018, 2019) returned home with silver in the Pairs event and the BC3 individual event. Cian Wackrow (new player) came home with silver in the Pairs event (with Troy) and finished 5th in the BC3 classification. Rhys Wykes (new player) came home with a silver medal from the Teams event. I would like to say a huge congratulations to each of them for the efforts to made on and off the field of play.
Thank you to Parent to Parent NZ for giving me a paid Volunteer Day so that I could coach this amazing group of people. It’s uplifting to be involved in this sport that enables young and not so young to be independent and achieve sporting goals like their peers at school or in the workplace. These medals are battled for and in order to take some home, you need to be great at what you do. The fact that all four of our team took medals home is a testament to our wee club, the volunteers that are there and of course the tremendous skill level of the players themselves.
If anyone from across the country is interested in either volunteering at Boccia or if you feel your or your child could play this sport, please visit www.boccia.org.nz