Boccia on a roll with world's biggest school tournament

The premier team sport for those with physical disabilities, boccia is back and bigger than ever in 2024. Glenn Cullen reports.

Students seated in chairs on a wooden court holding balls. Students seated in chairs on a wooden court holding balls.
Image: More than 500 teams from 470 schools have entered the 2024 School Sport Unit's boccia tournament.

With 470 schools entering 511 teams across the state and an estimated 3400 competitors, the Department of Education’s School Sport Unit’s boccia tournament is thought to be the biggest of its type anywhere in the world.

Now in its 11th year, after starting as a humble competition for 40 NSW public schools, boccia is the sport of choice for participants with a range of physical disabilities.

It has elements of bocce, bowls and pétanque with the goal of getting the balls closer to the jack than the opposition.

School Sport Unit Disability Inclusion Officer Peter Cardy said the competition had grown over the years and now catered for students with physical, hearing, vision, intellectual impairments and transplant recipients.

“Schools really value the opportunity for their students with disability to get involved and some have made six-hour roundtrips to the competition to make it happen,” he said.

“The School Sport Unit has provided schools with specialised boccia equipment to help facilitate their involvement, ensuring all students can have access to this wonderful sport.”

Originally designed for athletes with severe physical disability, boccia’s peak competition is the Paralympics where it has been a Games sport since 1984.

The NSW public schools’ competition has been a springboard for students to move into the international boccia scene, with Paralympians Dan Michel, Jamieson Leeson and Spencer Cotie all beginning their boccia careers in the School Sport Unit event.

Dan and Jamieson went on to win gold in three World Cup Pairs Championships and bronze at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

The NSW public schools’ competition starts in Broken Hill on Thursday 2 May, with regional tournaments held around the state until Monday, 17 June.

The winner of each of the 25 tournaments qualifies for a place at the NSW state finals in Sydney in August.

The School Sport Unit also has a range of other events for students with disability in 2024 including multi-sport days and Tenpin bowling competition.

The School Sport Unit website has more information on the boccia tournaments and other sporting events for students with disability.

Students seated in chairs on a wooden court holding balls. Students seated in chairs on a wooden court holding balls.
Image: There are 25 qualifying tournaments across the state in 2024, with the finals in Sydney in August.
  • News
Return to top of page Back to top