Pilbara stars show off abilities at Optus Stadium

Shannon BeattiePilbara News
Cooper Humphries.
Camera IconCooper Humphries. Credit: Perth Football League, Moana Hallett

Two young men from the Pilbara hit the big time over the Easter weekend when they ran onto the oval at Optus Stadium for a curtain-raiser game before West Coast took on Port Adelaide.

Cooper Humphries and Jonah Smith, who have Down syndrome and autism respectively, were flown to the capital by the Perth Football League for the seventh annual Integrated All-Stars game on Good Friday.

The match was a part of league’s Integrated competition, which gives people with intellectual disabilities over the age of 16 the chance to play football in a competitive league.

The boys, who are both in their late teens, played for the North Blue team, with Smith chosen to captain the side and lead the players out onto the field.

Jonah Smith.
Camera IconJonah Smith. Credit: Perth Football League, Moana Hallett

PFL Integrated football co-ordinator Hayden Marchetto said the competition enabled people to participate in a competition where they felt comfortable.

“Jonah didn’t know any of the players but was welcomed with open arms and it was a really unique experience for him,” he said.

“Cooper arrived only 15 minutes before the game started. He put a jumper on and ran straight out onto the field.”

Smith, of Tom Price, and Humphries, of Wickham, were chosen for the game by West Australian Football Commission Pilbara regional manager Vicki Agnew.

“She just thought it was a fantastic opportunity and within a couple of days of us extending the invitation, she had the guys ready and available,” Marchetto said.

“The feedback I’ve been given by the Humphries, so Cooper’s parents, is that he cannot stop talking about the experience and he still has a smile from ear to ear.”

“Jonah got plenty of the ball, seemed to enjoy himself, and was immersed really well in the team.”

Ultimately, Marchetto wants to do more and would love to partner with Agnew and give more men and women with intellectual disabilities in the Pilbara the opportunity to play football.

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