Bendigo's balloon football players rise to the test

VICTORIOUS: Country team-mates are all smiles after defeating their city counterparts in a balloon football match at the Peter Krenz Leisure Centre.

VICTORIOUS: Country team-mates are all smiles after defeating their city counterparts in a balloon football match at the Peter Krenz Leisure Centre.

Some of the best balloon football players in the state have faced off in Eaglehawk in a battle pitting city against country.

First-rate players from Melbourne’s four leagues took to the court to take on Bendigo’s finest this week at the Peter Krenz Leisure Centre.

In the first quarter Country ran away with a 27 to one lead. But Metro clawed their way back into the match to lose by two goals.

The final score was Country 38 to Metro 27.

The game comes a week after the Bendigo Balloon Football League grand final saw the Bulldogs come away with a 14-point victory over the Blues.

Balloon football is loosely based on Aussie rules football, with teams of five people in wheelchairs playing on a basketball court. Players score six points for a goal and one for a behind.

The game is run by disability service Scope Victoria.

The service’s regional manager, Mary Sullivan, said Bendigo had been integral to the development of the sport, helping to take it to new levels.

“There have been tactics developed here over a period of time around getting players into the right positions,” she said.

The sport was invented in Melbourne two decades ago and now boasts leagues across Melbourne as well as Geelong and Bendigo.

Game co-inventor Cam West said he was shocked by the game’s success, never believing it would grow into the sport it had become.

Mr West was on court for one of today’s exhibition matches, which took place around the Country and Metro clash.

“It’s a fantastic sport,” he said.

Mr West said there were now plans to expand into Tasmania.

Meanwhile, Ms Sullivan said there were hopes a league could be established closer to home in Ballarat.

“If they do we could start a Bendigo and Ballarat rivalry,” she said.

Played with a large but light weather balloon, the sport can be played by people of all ages and any gender. 

Wheelchairs can be either manual or motorised.

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