International Wheelchair Rugby League comes to Medway

This coming weekend of September 13th-14th sees International Wheelchair Rugby League returning to Medway Park Leisure Centre in Gillingham, for the first time since last year’s highly successful second world cup. This year England, the world cup finalists (losing narrowly 44-40 to France, the sport’s birth place in 2004), will be facing the other “home” nations in a round-robin competition.

Players from all over Ireland and the UK, representing club sides from Swindon St George, Liverpool Lions, Halifax, Mersey Storm, Leyland Warriors and Medway’s very own Dragons, are gathering to give battle in our Sports Premier International event of 2014!

So here is a short introduction to our sport:

I imagine many of you are now probably thinking, “What is Wheelchair Rugby League?” Almost a year ago I was asking myself the same thing when I answered an advert on Facebook looking for players for a new team in my town, Gravesend. Wheelchair RL IS NOT the Wheelchair Rugby aka Murderball which is played with a round ball, in heavily armoured chairs, that is one of the star attractions of the Paralympics. Wheelchair RL is played with a rugby ball (which can only be passed backwards or kicked forward), tackles are made by removing a tag from the shoulder. Players use lightweight, quick, easy to manoeuvre basketball chairs. As with the running game there are six tackles before a hand over of possession, after each tackle play being restarted with a modified version of “play the ball”. There are five players on each side playing, usually, indoors on a standard basketball court sized pitch with scaled down rugby posts at both ends. The object of the game to score a “try”. Points are scored as in the running game with a Try worth 4 points, a conversion 2 points, penalty goal 2 points and a drop goal 1 point.

So who can play Wheelchair RL? Pretty much anyone! Disabled (like myself), able bodied, female, male, old and young all play together. Unlike our Paralympic wheelchair rugby cousins, Wheelchair RL does not have a complicated classification points system that rates disabled players on our ability to perform certain tasks, you’re either disabled or not. As long as you can push a manual chair and catch/pass a ball, enjoy the occasional crash, strengthening your core/shoulders/arms, this is the sport for you!

Hopefully this has piqued your interest and you’ll join us this weekend at Medway Park cheering on your team; be that Ireland, England, Wales or Scotland. Or you may be be inspired to get along to either of your local Wheelchair RL Teams, Medway Dragons or Gravesend Dynamite (both can be found via social media) and give this fast paced, mixed ability sport a TRY!

Liam Hammock

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