Rugby league legend Wally Lewis goes quiet for a silent touch football match as part of Hearing Awareness Week.
Wally Lewis is not a guy you tell to shut up. “The King” is a revered rugby league champion, who has used the power of his voice, as well as his formidable football talent, as a player, coach, commentator and broadcaster. But when his daughter Jamie-Lee asked him to be quiet, he didn’t raise a murmur.
Lewis and Jamie-Lee, 24, travelled to Canberra to take part in a silent touch football match on the lawn at Reconciliation Place between Old Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin.
Similar silent sports challenges, organised jointly by Deaf Sports Australia and Touch Football Australia, have also been held as part of Hearing Awareness Week (August 24 to August 30, 2014) in Melbourne, Adelaide and on the Gold Coast.
Under the modified rules, hearing players were fitted with ear plugs, no verbal communication was allowed and the referee signalled players with a flag rather than a whistle.
Irena Farinacci, sports development officer with Deaf Sports Australia, says it’s “a fantastic step forward in creating an inclusive environment for everybody to play touch football”.
Lewis says staying silent during a football match is a big challenge. “I often say to football players, champions of today or tomorrow, that the most important feature about rugby league is communication on the football field,” he said. “And when there’s no communication, or it’s severely reduced, it makes it very tough, but it really does open the door and make people aware of just how difficult it can be.”
Jamie-Lee Lewis was born profoundly death and fitted with a cochlear implant when she was four. Her major sport is water polo; among her many achievements she was the first hearing-impaired person to represent Australia in a hearing sport. Ms Lewis's motto is: ‘Never, never give up. Being deaf is difficult but it should never be used as an excuse. We should just try to be just as good, if not better, than the players we are playing against.’
“She just goes on to show how good, what an important role, hearing impaired people can play in sports,” Lewis said. “And that stretches to the workplace as well. “There are plenty of hurdles along the way and I think that’s probably the most important issue, is that we help people to accept hearing impaired people into the workplace and just show them just what a great job they can do.”
*Text and photo supplied by 666 ABC Canberra.