Benson kicking goals on and off the field

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Benson Holt can’t get enough of his AFL footy and is looking forward to what 2023 will bring after making his debut as a representative footballer last year.

Benson, 16, who lives with Williams syndrome – a rare genetic disorder which affects around one in 20,000 people – has been playing footy since he could put on boots and is already hitting the track in anticipation of what this year will bring.

He joined Auskick as a five-year-old and has played for the Temora Kangaroos throughout his childhood and teen years and was thrilled to win the Kangaroos Goal of the Year in 2017 in the Junior Division (under 11s, 13s and 15s).

It has been a club that means so much to the Holt family.

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“The Temora club have been great and very inclusive. Benson’s the only child with special needs who plays for the club and they’ve been so supportive of him,”

Louise Holt, Benson's mum.

Last year Benson was selected to represent AFL NSW/ACT in the Toyota AFL National Inclusion Carnival, an annual representative event that showcases the abilities of footballers with an intellectual disability. Benson travelled to the Barossa Valley, South Australia to play for the AFL NSW/ACT Rams.

Although injury and illness left the Rams a few players short, Benson and the team didn’t let that dull their spirits and still gave it their all.

Benson played nine out of 10 games during the carnival and even though he was exhausted by the end, he would do it again in a heartbeat and is hoping to be selected to play again this year.

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“We were struggling to get players in our team because one player got knocked down and one had an asthma attack. It was hard but we got there in the end. I was really tired I slept for an hour and a half on the way home,”

Benson Holt

“My favourite part was making new friends and then talking to them. I keep in touch with two blokes called Chip and Sam and will hopefully get to see them this year if we all get selected for the carnival again.”

Louise said the team was an inspiration to watch.

“They (team) played excellent and held it together, and although they didn’t really win anything, they never gave up which was really nice and everyone had a great time,” Louise said.

“Benson made some great friends and it wasn’t just great friends from NSW, it was friends from all the other states and I think that was the important part too. It wasn’t just local, everybody got along so well with each other.

“He keeps in contact with someone from Canberra and they call each other regularly which is nice.”

Participating in the carnival was recommended by an old schoolteacher, with both Pat (Benson’s dad) and Louise grateful for the support Benson receives from his school, footy club, the Temora township and Intereach.

Benson has been accessing services through Intereach and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and while his family are very independent when it comes to Benson’s NDIS plan, Louise said it was still a comfort knowing she could get in touch with Intereach whenever they need to.

The NDIS has allowed Benson to utilise physiotherapy to maintain his mobility, strength and endurance to help him with an active sport like AFL.

“It’s great to be able to access services locally and Intereach are always there if you ever need them. Kim (Benson’s Local Area Coordinator) has always been there and she’s always checking in on me and making sure everything’s going okay which is really lovely,” Louise said.

Aside from football, Benson is interested in farming and spends a lot of time on the family’s property and has completed work experience with a local agriculture business while completing his schooling.

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