Playing Rugby with Autism

· SA Premier
by Rugby Union SA

Before being diagnosed with High Functioning Autism at 4, Shane and Heidi knew Riley was different, but to hear the words from their doctor was still a devastating blow. They were told all of the things that their gorgeous boy would never be able to do – talk properly, adjust to change, attend a mainstream school, socially interact with others, and play a team sport (to name just a few).

In 2010 their lives changed forever. After a phone conversation with Barossa Rams Rugby Club member (Brenton “Badman” Baker), Shane decided that their 4 boys (including Riley) were playing Rugby Union at Lyndoch. Heidi was amazed by how friendly and welcoming the club was, and overwhelmingly happy Riley was welcomed with opened arms, “quirks and all”.

Riley found his Happy Place.

Surrounded by people that care for him, just as he is and teammates that protect him and each other like a pack of lions, as he does in return. Not only does he love this sport – rugby loves him, pushing him slightly out of his comfort zone and taking him to different states, representing SA twice and recently, along with his U16 teammates, won Barossa Rams first Junior Championship Flag in 2018.

Rugby Union and the Barossa Rams Rugby Club have given Riley the Resilience, Discipline, Unity, Passion, and tools that he can use every day to face his difficulties and challenges.

Rugby has also given him the confidence and social skills to pursue his chosen career in carpentry.