TAPITALLEE'S Zachary Jones, Callala Bay’s Ben Atkins and their New South Wales Paralympic Football State team have recently won their ninth successive national Paralympic seven-a-side title, defeating rivals Victoria 1-nil in the decider at Valentine Sports Park.
Fresh off helping the Australian Pararoos finish 10th at the recent International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships (IFCPF) in San Luis, Argentina, both Jones and Atkins, who scored the winner in the grand final with a 25-metre left foot power drive, played a large role in NSW’s success.
During the four day tournament, Jones, Atkins and their team played against sides from Capital Football (predominately players from the Australian Capital Territoy), Victoria and Western Australia.
“We played two games each day for three days and on the final day, we played one game, which was the final,” Jones said.
“On day one we drew 1-all with Victoria and I was used as a super-sub and came on with only minutes to spare.
“Next game was against Western Australia – we had all our best players on and I was in the starting line-up and subsequently won 8-1.”
On day two, the pair’s NSW team defeated Capital Football 10-2, with Jones scoring a hat-trick.
Later that day, the NSW team edged out Victoria 7-3 in a scrappy affair, with opposition player being shown a red card and sent off.
On day three, NSW brushed aside Capital 12-nil, before drawing 2-all with Western Australia, to set up their gold medal match with Victoria.
“I came on late in the game but it didn’t matter as we won 1-nil to finish up with the national championship and our 13th national title – which I was pumped about,” Jones said.
“During the nationals, I felt quite relaxed and not as pressured as I do when I play overseas for the Australian team, the Pararoos.
“I felt that I played well but I understand that I still can make improvements to my game.
“It was after our first two games and two losses overseas in Argentina that I was moved out of the defence into an attacking role - something I hadn’t done before.
“So I’m still getting used to this role and have opportunities for improvement there.”
This was Jones’ fourth straight nationals and fourth national title – who will now turn his attention to futsal.
“I am now playing futsal for the South Coast Taipans,” he said.
“Games are in Sydney every Saturday except when we have a home game in Wollongong.
“On top of that, I have been selected as the captain of the NSW Athletes With Disabilities futsal team to play in Canberra from January 8-12, 2018 at the National Futsal Championships.”