Three Hills locals, Isla Custovic, Amelia Odell, and Jess Waters, are celebrating after helping the NSW women’s team lift the 2024 Australian Deaf Games football title.
The NSW men’s team also took home the gold medal, while the women were crowned overall champions at the Games held in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie from January 13-20. The players were chosen from the NSW Deaf Football and Futsal Club.
Isla, a qualified HFI football referee, Amelia, and Jess are in the mix to represent Australia at the 2025 Deaflympics in Tokyo. Participation in the Deaflympics is restricted to persons who are: deaf, defined as a hearing loss of at least 55dB in the better ear.
Isla plays for Norwest FC Youth Girls, Amelia represents Kellyville Kolts Youth Girls while Jess Waters is a former North Rocks FC player. The NSW team were coached during the games by Chris Kirk, the female football and referee coordinator at Hills Spirit FC.
During deaf football, all hearing devices are removed. Some players may still be able to hear at a reduced level, but many can’t hear much or anything at all. It can be an unnerving experience for some players like Isla who has Cochlear implants, so she cannot hear anything with her devices removed.
Kirk said it becomes a very visual game and the way the players work together is amazing. He said he learnt quickly to communicate with the players, having been entrusted with the coaching only 15 minutes before the first game.
“The experience at the Deaf Games was awesome and took a lot of us out of our comfort zones,” Chris said. “Some of the girls could hear without any hearing devices, but some were completely deaf during the games so I quickly found ways to communicate.
“We had a great group of girls and it was a pleasure to help them, achieving four wins, one draw, and one defeat. The games were hard- fought and with lots of great football on show. A credit to all the players involved.”
Sponsors are urgently needed for the Australian Women’s deaf football team because it was a lack of funding which prevented them from attending the 2023 Deaf World Cup in Malaysia leaving several disappointed players.
“The NSW team need their own uniforms (they currently share with the boys) and the Australian team need more uniforms so there are definitely many ways that sponsorship could help these wonderful players and grow women’s deaf football in Australia,” said one of the girl’s parents.
The 2024 Australian Deaf Games features football, basketball, futsal, chess, darts and netball. A free friendly women’s game will be played between Deaf Football Australia and St Mary’s, Eagle Vale, at 3pm at Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park.