Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

George Has A Tonna’ Passion

7 Feb 2011George Tonna was born with Cerebral Palsy. When he was a young boy, he attended a regular mainstream school, and he rarely participated in sporting activities, but when forced to, he stuck close to the sidelines and tried his best to avoid any action.

Growing up in a loving home, George’s Maltese parents were very protective of him and would’ve loved to have wrapped him up in cotton wool, which I think is pretty common within the disability world. He didn’t end up playing sport until he was 21, but once he started, there was no stopping him.

He guided a NSW futsal team to a national title, took up athletics and coached an intellectually disabled athletics team. Tonna then went on to represent Australia in football (soccer) in the Sydney Paralympic games in the year 2000. His team, which George was the Vice Captain of, was the first Australian football team in history to win a game in the Paralympics, beating Holland 2-1.

With his never-say-die attitude, George was the first person in Australia with Cerebral Palsy to be recognised as a football player, even having a medal named after him. The George Tonna Medal is awarded annually at the Cerebral Palsy National Championships.

Even though he has accomplished so much in football (soccer), George’s real passion is rugby league. He had a dream to create the first rugby league association for people with physical disabilities. His dream was realised, when he organised for a trial match to be played on Sunday the 12th December last year at Cabramatta Sportsground, to test out a set of modified rules, which proved to be a huge success. The match, which was played between the Western Sydney Outlaws and the Eastern Sydney Stingrays, ended in a 24-all draw.

Some players travelled over an hour to participate in the second match which was held in Cabramatta on Saturday the 29th January. This time, ending with a 10 point advantage to take out the win, was the Eastern Sydney Stingrays against the Western Sydney Outlaws.

A third match was played over the past weekend on Saturday the 5th of February at Era Stadium in Cabramatta.

George has huge aspirations for the NSW Physical Disability Rugby League Association (NSWPDRLA), and is still looking for members to contribute in many different ways. So if you have Cerebral Palsy, or are an upper or lower amputee, a stroke victim or have been affected by a traumatic brain injury, and you have an interest in rugby league, then the NSWPDRLA may need you.

They are still looking for players to help form more teams, as well as those who would be interested in assisting in the following areas: coaching, training, officials and touch judges or referees. So if you are interested, or know someone would be, then contact the association at [email protected] and you may be part of making Australian disability history.

You can also ‘Like’ their page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/NSW-Physical-Disability-Rugby-League/179401715411699?v=wall or search Disability Rugby League.

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