Mitchell Rangers All Abilities program kicks off for season 2022

Great day out: The Mitchell Rangers All Abilities squad began its new season at the weekend. Photo by Contributed

Smiles and laughter were in abundance at Thornbury’s Hayes Park on Sunday afternoon, as the Mitchell Rangers All Abilities squad began its 2022 season.

The only program of its kind in the Mitchell Shire, the squad is aimed at giving everyone a chance to play the game of soccer, with games usually taking place fortnightly.

Coach Paul Sirianni explained how the program, now in its seventh season, came about and what he hoped the players got out of being involved.

“It all began in 2016 when a person with a disability was inquiring about how the senior team was going and said ‘I wouldn’t mind playing’, so that planted the seed,” Sirianni said.

“So we got him down to the club for a kick and it pretty much started from there.

“Our goal is to facilitate people that want to play soccer to be able to play; everyone deserves a chance to play the game, it really doesn’t matter what position you’re in, if you want to play we’ll make it happen.”

The program enjoyed great success in its early stages, with large numbers of players coming out and getting involved in the fun.

But, as with all community sporting clubs, the Mitchell Rangers were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the rebuilding process now just getting back under way.

“It grew astronomically through 2017 and 2018, we had 22 adult players and about five or six juniors as well,” Sirianni said.

“But then COVID-19 hit and the numbers have certainly dwindled since then, I think at the moment we have somewhere in the vicinity of 12 registered players so we are hoping as restrictions continue to ease more players come on board.

“We are the only club that doesn’t charge our players; they get a team strip, we pay the insurance and register them up, so there’s no cost — we just want to see the players go out there and have fun.”

Having gone through so much hardship following the pandemic, Sirianni said it was just wonderful to get back out on the pitch again.

“It was beautiful,” he said.

“We generally play seven on a pitch but some guys just can’t stand on the bench so we just let them all go out there and play.

“Players that have a hard time getting to the ball and having a kick, we make sure to tell the other players to let them have a go, just so everybody feels involved and participates.

“Everyone had a lot of fun and we can’t wait for our next match already.”

The Mitchell Rangers All Abilities squad trains on Wednesdays from 5.30pm to 6.30pm at Broadford Secondary College, with all welcome to come down and get involved.