ROCHERLEA Football Club has made a big difference in the lives of two special people this season.
The suburban Tigers have opened their arms and adopted Philip Broad and Robert Pearce as club waterboys - a connection that has made a big difference in both their lives.
Suffering from cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, Philip has become an integral part of the club along with his support worker Brandon Ashdown.
"Phil came to the club wanting to get socially involved and has attended all training and game days and carried out his tasks in all grades," club chairman Graeme Gardner said.
"He has a great rapport with the players and gets due respect and appreciation for his role.
"Robert (Bobby) came to us from the encouragement of the supervisors at Pathways and has relished the opportunity to be in a tight-knit sporting group.
"He is in charge of the waterboys, a role he takes seriously and both he and Phil are cult figures at the club with their enthusiasm and good nature."
Philip's carer Leanne Hoskinson was full of praise for the club's support and the benefit gained from his involvement.
"Since we got him involved with the football club his lifestyle has improved out of sight," she said.
"He's been able to get some exercise and the social and community inclusion that the club has given him has supported his growth and development into a young man.
"He's made lots of friends - I can't believe the amount of support that Rocherlea has given and how they have included him and let him be a part of a community and a team - it is a wonderful thing that they have done and a tribute to the club.
"He tells everyone that he loves the Tigers and they love him and it's made him part of the team."
Gardner said the club liked to engage with the community and having the pair involved around the club fitted into the club's ethos.
"The benefit that the two guys have got out of it has been great and it shows what can happen if any sporting clubs or groups provide opportunities for people and just make them welcome and it all goes from there," he said.