A lifetime love of sport

Basketball has had a home within the YMCA since James Naismith, working at one of our centres in the USA.

Massey in Auckland runs one of our busiest basketball hubs, with classes, leagues and games taking place every day of the week.

One of the familiar faces courtside is Matt Williams, who works as a referee and a referee coordinator. He has loved the game since childhood in Palmerston North, finding joy with a whistle as a coach and referee rather than a player. After moving to Auckland, Matty started his time with us in at Sir William Jordan Recreation, before moving to Massey to take a recreation role.

Choosing the whistle over the office

After a brain injury in 2016, Matt needed to reduce his hours, and facing the choice between admin or referee roles, chose to keep working in the sport he loves so much.

In 2022 Matt celebrated 10 years’ service with the Y – and has found an incredible way to acknowledge this milestone.

A seven year journey starts

In October, the delayed Rugby League World Cup is taking place in Warrington, England. Alongside the Women’s, Men’s, and Wheelchair championships, the tournament is holding a Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) showcase. Matt, alongside fellow Kiwis in an 18-strong squad, is part of the New Zealand team, which will compete against Australia, England and Wales, hopefully winning a place in the final on October 30.

Matty, a founding member of the team formed in 2016, attends weekly practices and monthly weekend training camps. These camps focus on drills and skills, finishing off with a game testing their progress. Matt says he's always been a fan of rugby league and was keen to create a team to allow him to take part in playing.

The road to Warrington

The upcoming rugby league world cup, originally due to take place in 2021, aims to be the most inclusive event of its kind yet. The official tournament features Women's, Men's and Wheelchair games, and, for the first time, will feature a Physical Disability Rugby League showcase, which Matt and his teammates will participate in. Matt says 'I've enjoyed it, we've all got some sort of disability, we're not able-bodied so we've all got the same feeling, it's really good'

Matt explains that the players are able to wear the specific protective equipment they need, such as his headwear. Physical disability Rugby League is a full-contact sport, however players who have a disability that restricts them from tackling are able to play Touch rugby league rules - these players are identified by the colour of their shorts.

The Y on his shirt

In addition to honing their skills and their fitness, the team have been hard at work fundraising to pay for their travel expenses. YMCA North was proud to provide sponsorship for Matt as a recognition for his hard work and commitment to himself and his team. We hope that next time you're at Massey you'll take a moment to wish him well - although, of course you'll have to catch him when he's not in the middle of blowing a whistle!