In less than six months time, there will be a World Cup held in Australia. The FIPFA Powerchair Football World Cup 2023 will be held in Sydney in October 2023 and for Rebecca Evans – recently named the Australian Powerchair Football Club Championships’ MVP and Player’s Player for Melbourne City – the chance to participate is a dream come true.
Originally from Perth, Evans moved to Melbourne in July 2022 in order to help pursue her goals in powerchair football.
“I got involved in powerchair football around 2018,” she explained.
“Powerchair football was the sport that enabled me to play independently and allowed me to reach the skill level that I wanted to achieve without my disability restricting my ability. I got involved in Perth, played for Perth Glory for a little bit, and then eventually moved to Melbourne in July last year.”
Evans had never considered herself much of a sports fan, but upon starting the sport was immediately hooked.
“I watch tennis and that’s about it!” she said.
“I was looking for something to do to start with. Then when I started playing I realised the level that I could achieve within the sport and that’s when I started to take it seriously, and realised my aspirations of playing for Australia.”
It didn’t take long for her to make her mark on the sport. In 2019, only her second year of playing, she was named vice-captain of the Australian u21 team that competed in the Asia-Pacific Oceanic Cup. Full Australian honours soon followed.
Playing for the national team has meant a lot to Evans, who describes powerchair football as her major passion in life.
“Powerchair football was my motivator to moving out of home,” she explained.
“When you ask what I’m doing, I’ll say that I’m studying, training or playing powerchair football. You can’t name a YouTuber that I haven’t watched, or a video that I haven’t watched. It’s my major passion.”
It’s that passion that in her view has been a major contributor to her success within the sport.
I think I’m a good player because of my decision making,” she explained.
“Obviously in this sport everyone has their own powerchair, which are on a similar level. So your skill level really comes down to how well you’re able to read the play, and how easily you are able to make quick decisions. I think that’s something I do well.
“Another aspect of the sport is obviously communication. Communicating to your teammates, making sure they know where you are, what you think they should do next, where they should be. I think I’m a good communicator on the court to make sure the team stays focused and knows what we should be doing.”
Outside of the sport, Evans is a phD candidate studying the outcomes for people with disabilities moving into independent living.
“It was kind of inspired by my own move to Melbourne where I also live independently away from family and with a support network around me,” she said.
“I’m hoping to promote the positivity that comes with enabling people with high levels of physical disability to live on their own and create their own lives.”
Powerchair football is unique in that it is a unisex sport. However, that does not mean that it is free from stereotypes for female players.
“Powerchair football is a very male dominated sport. I’m one of the rare female players that play,” she explained.
“In WA I was one of only two female players, and now in Melbourne I’m the only female player playing. Here at the Australian club championships there was only two female players. So it’s quite a rarity to see female players in the sport.
“I think when you first get to the sport you’re underestimated. [Others will think] ‘Oh, she’s a girl, she won’t be able to fight hard or kick hard or do anything as good as us.’ But then they see me on the court and think – ‘wow. She’s just as impressive as I am, she can hit just as hard a challenge as us.’ It’s nice to be able to break down that stereotype and be able to promote how gender inclusive this sport is.”
Evans sees the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and August as an opportunity to create momentum for more women to join powerchair football.
“I definitely want to see more female players within powerchair football. There’s no reason female players can’t play,” she said.
“I really try to encourage others to try the sport and try it out. Don’t be afraid if in your state there’s only male players, because you could be the first to be a female player in your local team or the state or wherever it is. It’s really critical to see females in the sport and hopefully we can use the momentum of the Women’s World Cup to bring more female players into powerchair football.”
Looking ahead to the Powerchair Football World Cup in October, Evans is excited to play against the best in the world at a World Cup for the first time – the players that she has so far only been able to watch videos of.
“I think there’s going to be excitement to be a part of the whole World Cup experience, and to be amongst other teams who I haven’t seen play live before,” she said.
“To be able to compete against the best of the world will be a pretty incredible experience.”