‘Most amazing moment’: Brisbane AFLW squad secretly learn club song in Auslan for deaf teammate

The members of a Brisbane AFLW team have secretly learnt to sign the club song in Auslan as a way to surprise a deaf teammate after a recent win.

Yeronga South Brisbane Devils player Jamie Howell is profoundly deaf and plays in specially designed head gear and a cochlear implant.

“It’s a beautiful language and I thought, this is how we can really be that inclusive club,” team captain Mia Walsh told ABC Radio Brisbane.

Ms Walsh and Ms Howell both work at Deaf Services — Hear for Kids.

They bonded over a love of sport and before long Ms Howell joined Yeronga Devils.

“I know she was quite terrified about joining a team sport. This is her first major team sport,” Ms Walsh said.

“She’d only ever played one AFL game before, but I knew she’d be amazing at it.

“We brought her on down and we were right — she is fantastic.”

Women wearing black and AFL uniforms stand on an AFL field. One woman stands in the foreground smiling.

Women wearing black and AFL uniforms stand on an AFL field. One woman stands in the foreground smiling.

Ms Howell is profoundly deaf and plays with a cochlear implant.(ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

Ms Walsh said other members of the team started thinking about how they could better include and support Ms Howell.

“I spoke to one of the other players in the leadership group and said, ‘I’d really love us to try and learn some Auslan’,” she said.

With the help of an interpreter to translate the club’s song, the team used a video to learn to sign.

“And the next time we won a game, we would just belt our club song out with Auslan as well and surprise her.”

That is exactly what the team did.

Clearly touched, Ms Howell signed “thank you, thank you” to her teammates.

Auslan ‘shouldn’t just be for disasters’

Last summer’s bushfires and the global pandemic have resulted in Auslan interpreters becoming a common sight on TV screens at daily news conferences.

Ms Walsh said she would like to see interpreters at celebrations and events as well.

“It shouldn’t just be for disasters … maybe it’s something that could become a bit more mainstream,” she said.

Some events already include Auslan interpreters, but they are not yet commonplace.

“It’s so expressive and so physical,” Ms Walsh said.

She said the Yeronga club now hoped to teach the men’s and junior teams to sign as well.

“I think the kids would really get around it.”