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The boy who brought Boccia to Broken Hill

By Stuart Kavanagh

The NSW Department of Education State Boccia Championship will see 16 teams converge on Sydney Olympic Park to compete in a sport that has gained something of a cult following since it was anointed a paralympic sport back in the early 1980s.

The game, commonly played in NSW public schools, is a mixture of bocce, and bowls with a slight hint of pétanque. One thing that seems to draw people to the sport is its inclusivity. The game can be contested by both para and able-bodied participants.

Willyama High School in Broken Hill is one of the schools contesting the state championships this Wednesday.

One of the main catalysts for the school getting involved in the sport is student Cal Shepherd.

Cal, who has cerebral palsy, saw boccia on TV and immediately fell in love with the game.

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With the help of his principal dad, Grant Shepherd, and the School Sport Unit Disability and Inclusion Officers, he lobbied to get boccia introduced to seven schools in the region late last year.

In a crushing blow, Cal contracted COVID when the competition to determine the top Boccia school in Broken Hill was contested.

Ultimately Willyama would fail to take out the Broken Hill title and it seemed Cal was destined to miss the State Championship.

In a stroke of luck for Cal and his Boccia teammates, the school that won the Broken Hill Championship was unable to attend the State Championships.

Therefore, Willyama was elevated, as the next highest ranking school, which meant that Cal, the boy who brought Boccia to Broken Hill, will now travel to Sydney to compete in the State Championships.

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