North Clare Auskicker Patrick Tilley, 7, kicked six goals during half time of the A-grade in the last game of the minor round at Clare oval.
It is no mean feat for any footballer, but six goals in just his second game of Australian Rules football was extra-special for this little footy-mad Rooster who has a vision impairment.
Patrick has been getting out to North Clare’s Auskick sessions this season, and dad Leith said it has been an amazing experience for him.
“He is totally blind, his vision has deteriorated from about 1.5-years-old, he really doesn’t remember seeing at all, which makes his effort on the field last Saturday all the more extraordinary,” Leith said.
“Our other kids started playing for North Clare this year and we were keen for Patrick to participate in any sport really, but it just fell into place and Auskick was on at the same time as our other kids’ trainings.
“Patrick asked if he could have a go, so we asked the club and they said yes, absolutely.
“He has just loved it, he’s mad about football whether it’s local footy, on the tv or football tipping. His love of footy really took off after being invited to the Crows Foundation Christmas Breakfast last year where he was able to meet all the players.
“To be able to go and play and run around with your friends, the Auskick game really was one of the best days of his life.”
Leith and wife Kirsty said they were happy seeing Patrick active and playing sport in a supportive, positive environment.
“Kirsty and I are always happy to see our kids playing sport and we’re so proud of Patrick, he puts a lot of faith in those people around him, helping him,” Leith said.
“We’ve really been supported so well by North Clare, they went out of their way, it’s been just amazing what they’ve done for us.”
Helping Patrick on the day of the scratch match was North Clare B-grade player Hayden Calaby who talked him through the game and helped guide him to the ball.
Despite only meeting for the first time as Patrick was running onto the oval for a scratch match earlier in the season, the pair hit it off and it seems they make a good combination considering the impressive six-goal haul.
“Hayden was fantastic, and Auskick coach Tony Poole has been amazing – Patrick said he is the best coach ever,” Leith said.
“Patrick just loved the game, he couldn’t believe he kicked six goals and got a couple of handballs too.
“He’s been doing a fair bit of goal kicking practice at school at St Joseph’s in Clare, and also at Auskick.
“Patrick also goes to the South Australian School for Vision Impaired (SASVI) which has been fantastic, they do a bit of sport there and really make him strive to do better, get him out of his comfort zone, and I think that has really helped his footy.”
North Clare Auskick coach Tony Poole said Patrick’s passion for footy made it easy to coach him and the family was an asset to the club.
“He’s a fantastic kid,” Tony said.
“Initially it was a bit daunting I guess, I wasn’t really sure how to go about coaching a visually impaired footballer, but Patrick’s dad Leith was fantastic and was there to help guide him, and we really just treated him like all the other players.
“He always had a grin on his face, he was always telling me how many goals Josh Jenkins had kicked for the Crows on the weekend, and on Saturday was pretty excited to tell me he’d kicked more goals than Jenkins.
“He wanted to know everything there is to know about footy, and the enthusiasm he shows makes it really easy to coach Patrick.”
While the Auskick season is finished for this year, Leith said Patrick was already keen to play again next year.