Playing a game of rugby league was the dream of James Barling's life, one the autistic 28-year-old thought might never come true until the Altona Roosters found a solution.
James Barling has long dreamt of playing a game of rugby league.
Barling had tried to play for several clubs but, despite his enthusiasm, it didn't work out.
"It's been my wish all my life but it's been hard," Barling said.
"Because I've got ADHD everyone teases me and picks on me because I'm different to everyone else."
When he turned up earlier this season at the Altona Roosters, based in Melbourne's west, the rugby league club quickly realised Barling's wish might be difficult to grant.
"The good thing about it was our coaches and managers were really understanding and just said, 'You know what? We'll keep him training,'" club president Jackson Brenchley said.
"He was good for morale. He was really excited, probably over-excited, about some simple things at training but we loved it. We loved having him around."
Barling attended most training sessions and started running water for the senior team.
"Every week he was begging me for an opportunity to play and it was pretty hard to say no to him," Brenchley said.
A 'gentleman's agreement' to play
That opportunity arose when opposition club Northern Thunder heard of Barling's situation and proposed a way of getting him involved in their third-division match.
They struck a "gentleman's agreement" whereby Barling would play but with his wellbeing and safety in mind.
Altona Roosters coach Efu Koka told the ABC ahead last Saturday's match Barling would play a "few minutes" in the first half.
"The boys know the guy with the red shorts, probably don't do a king-hit on him."
When the most significant moment of Barling's sporting life arrived, his teammates formed a tunnel for him to run out onto the field.
James Barling lives with high-functioning ADHD and autism, which has made his lifelong dream of playing rugby league difficult
Barling played his first game for Victorian club Altona Roosters and scored three tries
Barling's participation is hoped to spread greater awareness and understanding of people with autism
The 28-year-old has high-functioning attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.