FIJIAN TOUR: Deaf rugby players Dave Hoffman (left) and Simon Mahony are all smiles before they tackle a tour of Fiji next week.
FIJIAN TOUR: Deaf rugby players Dave Hoffman (left) and Simon Mahony are all smiles before they tackle a tour of Fiji next week. STEVE SPINKS

Deaf rugby players head to Fiji

SOUTHERN Cross University rugby union player Simon Mahony is perhaps the luckiest footballer on the planet - after all, he has never heard the continuous shrill of a rugby referee's whistle while playing.

Mahony was born profoundly deaf but he has not let his disability deter him from playing the contact sport he took up only six years ago and next week the second-rower will lead the Southern Cross deaf rugby team to Fiji for a six-match tournament.

The father of three boys, who have no disability, Mahony set up the Southern Cross deaf rugby club and players from around the country will join the team.

“We are proud we can do this trip to Fiji to play against the Fiji deaf rugby side,” Mahony said.

“This tour is part of our vision to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing to socialise with each other and integrate into the deaf and rugby communities.

“Rugby is a great way for this to happen.”

While relishing the opportunity to travel to a picturesque Pacific island, Mahony is not so much looking forward to tackling the always rugged, rugby-mad Fijians.

“I was lucky enough to go there not long ago and experience the Fijian culture and their deaf culture and they would play rugby all day if they could,” he said.

The Southern Cross team will play two Fijian sides, while another two sides from Japan and New Zealand will also be there.

The mini-tournament will be a pre-cursor to a proposed 2011 Pacific Deaf Rugby Cup, which Mahony is heavily involved in organising.

The club has also been involved in establishing seven-a-side competitions in Sydney and Brisbane.

Joining Mahony in Fiji will be former Lismore City player and Marist Brothers rugby league front-rower Dave Hoffman.

Hoffman suffered hearing impairment from a grenade accident while he was in the army.

He now has the hearing of a 70-year-old, which will gradually degenerate further.

He will also captain the side as one of the only players in it who can hear the referee's whistle.

“That is an unbelievable challenge,” Hoffman said.

“At Newcastle when I first played with the team the ball was too hard so the ref told the other team to kick it out just before the kick-off.

“One of our players didn't realise this, thought it was the kick-off and then took off with the ball in hand down the field.

“Calling plays and communicating in defence is difficult but you try to get around it with a mixture of hand signals.

“A lot of the time you just have to trust the bloke next to you to be there.”

Despite recruiting players Australia-wide, the team is largely supported by Lismore businesses.



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