Thanks to our partner Packaworld for sharing this story.
A blind Hamilton man is on a mission to grow the sport of goalball, aided by a world-first inflatable goal developed by New Zealand company Packaworld International.
Steve Donnelly is the captain of Waikato Goalball Club and well known within the blind and low vision community for his sporting exploits as a New Zealand BlindCaps cricket player.
The 47-year old is keen to raise awareness of goalball – a popular sport at the Paralympics – but has struggled to introduce people to the sport because of a lack of local facilities with goals.
But that is about to change. Waikato Goalball Club received a boost on Saturday when they used the new Goalball Packagoals for the first time at one of their training sessions at Melville Community Hall. The club has used metal goals in the past but decided to upgrade to inflatable Goalball Packagoals to make set up and storage easier, and enable the goals to be taken to schools and other new venues.
“It took a good half hour to set up the metal goals and they were hard to transport. The Packagoals are really good because we can put them in the back of the van rather than needing a ute or trailer.”
Waikato Goalball Club currently has one team but is hoping to grow its player base so more games can be played locally. Mr Donnelly said the new goals would allow the club to introduce the sport to new people, including younger players at Hamilton schools.
“We want to get the young ones involved. You only need three players for a team but we want to grow the club so we can play against each other and have referees. Sighted people play as well but everyone is equal on the goalball court because you put blackout goggles on so you’re all totally blind.”
Mr Donnelly says goalball is an ideal game for blind and low vision people who want to get involved in a sport that is physical. It is played between two teams of three players, each taking turns to roll a 1.25 kg goalball across the court into the opposition goal at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour. The ball has a bell in it, and players use sound to guide them as they dive and attempt to stop the ball entering their goal.
“With goalball you have to be fit,” Mr Donnelly said. “In a sport like cricket you can get away with it but in goalball you get found out because people aim for you if you’re not fit. The really good guys have a great idea of where they are on the court, and they get up and back into position quickly after diving.”
Mr Donnelly is also a keen runner and cyclist. He has completed marathons in the past, with a guide, and plans to cycle around Lake Taupo as part of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge next year.
Packaworld Chief Executive Peter Roberts said Mr Donnelly’s efforts to grow the sport in New Zealand were inspiring.
“Packaworld is all about democratising sport, so it’s really humbling to see our equipment helping to break down the barriers to participation faced by groups that might not otherwise get the opportunity to experience the joy of sport.”
Goalball Packagoals were developed in consultation with Blind Sport New Zealand. They were used at Goalball New Zealand’s Goalball Invitational tournament in November, as well as for social leagues run by the Blind Foundation in Auckland. They have been trialled internationally in the UK for club matches and an exhibition played between members of the Great Britain squad and emerging talent within the sport.
The goals were also on show as part of a Blind Sport New Zealand visit by Canadian lawyer and disability advocate David Lepofsky late last year. Mr Lepofsky was in New Zealand to discuss his experience helping the Canadian government develop accessibility legislation, and to see some leading New Zealand initiatives to improve accessibility in everyday life, including for blind and low vision people who want to participate in sport.