Hamilton youngster Max Elliott has put on the boots for the first time under a new modified pilot rugby union program supported by Wallaby greats Tim Horan and Nathan Sharpe for children with learning and perceptual difficulties.
Max’s parents Megan and Anthony Elliott approached the Brothers Junior Rugby Club to include the players.
They worked with the club, Australian Rugby Union and Queensland Rugby Union for 12 months to put together the initiative which has matched eight children, aged-11, with eight mentors from Brothers’ under-13s, 14 and 15 ranks.
Mr Elliott, who co-founded the GingerCloud Foundation with his wife to support families of children who learn and perceive differently, said the idea of being a part of the club was to allow the children the simple pleasures of pulling on a jersey and running onto the field.
“It was great for Max to put on his jersey and boots and run out and he had a huge smile after the game,” Mr Elliott said.
Brothers Junior Rugby Club President Hans Pearson said ambassadors Tim Horan and Nathan Sharp would be at training and games to lend their support and send video messages to the mentors.
He said other clubs were already interested in the eight-week program and the results could be used to include a broader scope of disabilities in future.
The realisation of the program had meant a lot to the mentors, their players and their families. “The reaction has been fantastic and it was pretty emotional when we kicked off the program,” he said. The experience will also benefit the mentors who will gain certificates for their coaching experience.