Beauty of sport as simple gesture goes viral
A HEARTWARMING gesture on a Townsville footy field which has gone viral came from a place of personal pain.
Hermit Park Tigers player Scott O'Donnell had a disabled cousin who tragically died, so he thought nothing of bending down and helping tie the shoelaces of a disabled Northern Beaches Suns opponent on Saturday.
"It was just a natural thing that came to me at the time," the humble 31-year-old said.
But the gesture has set social media and the football community alight with national television picking up the story.
Mr O'Donnell said he had received messages from parents of other children with disabilities thanking him for his actions.
He hoped the simple act may help break down barriers and make Aussie rules more accessible to people with disabilities.
Mr O'Donnell had been back in Townsville for his brother's birthday on the weekend and was playing with a special permit, as he now plays his footy in Cairns.
After halftime spectators had their emotions tested once more when the man Mr O'Donnell helped went on to kick a goal after receiving a handball in the goal square which was captured on video.
His successful kick sparked a flood of players from both teams who surrounded the Suns player and celebrated his goal.
Senior players on the sidelines joined in with huge cheers.
The player had been given special dispensation to be listed as the Suns' 23rd player each week.
Today our great game in @AFLQ was put into perspective when a young man with a disability playing in the Townsville reserves comp had his shoe laces tied by his opponent mid game. He also kicked a goal and both teams got around him #AFLQfooty #inclusion #outstanding pic.twitter.com/RFGnptuHHL— Barry Gibson (@GibsonBarry) 23 June 2018
Hermit Park Tigers president Brennan Gibson said it had been in the spirit of the game to have the young man notch a goal.
He said it was the first thing his players were asking about when they got off the field, the scoreboard becoming a sideshow to the generous main event.
"I take my hat off to AFL Townsville for making it (allowing the man to play) happen," Mr Gibson said.
"It was pretty special."
Hermit Park Tigers reserves coach Stafford Jones said the afternoon summed up what the sport was about in ensuring inclusiveness.
"This is what country footy's about," Mr Stafford said.