By SANFL Media
Age is no longer a barrier to playing South Australia’s most participated sport with the launch of a unique non-contact Australian football program for over 50s.
SANFL ECH Walking Footy kicked off today at Peter Motley Oval, Unley as part of ZestFest 2019, with the first of a series of come and try matches.
Thanks to the new partnership between SANFL and leading ageing care provider ECH (Enabling Confidence at Home), the new competition is planned to roll out at various venues across Adelaide from March 2020, including the new indoor AFL Max centre at Adelaide Airport.
Walking Footy has been co-designed by ECH and SANFL in conjunction with participants involved in trials earlier this year to be fun, safe and inclusive, with six players on each team, no tackling, bumping or running and matches played on a small field approximately the size of a basketball court.
ECH Chief Executive David Panter said concepts such as Walking Footy were vitally important to assist older South Australians to remain physically active and socially engaged.
With social isolation on the increase and modern society ensuring everything is now at the touch of a button, initiatives such as this provide people with an inclusive and healthy way to meet new people, stay connected to the community, get out and about and enjoy some exercise,” Dr Panter said.
“In the last few years Walking Soccer and Walking Cricket have really taken off in the UK and have started to appear in Australia. It seemed obvious to look at how to translate this concept to Australian Rules Football.
“We are thrilled to partner with an iconic brand like SANFL to make this program available to the more than 15,000 South Australians that utilise ECH services, and the broader South Australian community.”
SANFL Chief Executive Officer Jake Parkinson said the Walking Footy program would fill a gap for South Australian football fans aged over 50, but also those who have never played or even watched a game of footy.
“The Walking Footy concept is a way of encouraging active participation in football at all stages of life and there are certainly no pre-requisites to getting involved,” Mr Parkinson said.
“With an ageing population, the program will be a significant way of helping to promote healthier lifestyles and connect people socially through the enjoyment of footy.”
Overall participation in football in South Australia increased by more than 17 per cent in 2018, topping 200,000 participants for the first time.
ECH client Julie Clarke, 67, who will be playing Walking Footy for the first time today, said it was an excellent initiative between ECH and SANFL which enabled ‘mature’ people like herself an opportunity to get involved actively in a new sport.
“Fun, cooperation, competition, physical challenge and a team environment with Walking Footy is what I am looking forward to,” she said.
The first come and try session for SANFL ECH Walking Footy was held at Unley Oval today in conjunction with the City of Unley as part of ZestFest, a uniquely South Australian arts and community festival specifically designed for people aged over 50.
ECH is a leading not-for-profit provider of services that promote self-determination and enable people to have the best possible life as they age. ECH supports more than 15,000 people and employs more than 650 staff, including nurses, home support staff, allied and other health professionals and administrators.
Sign up to see all the news from around the SANFL each week – directly in your inbox!