Canberra Region Rugby League (CRRL) is holding a wheelchair rugby league come and try day this Sunday 28 February at QPRC Indoor Sports in preparation for their first competition launching early autumn.
After this weekend’s come and try day, another will run on Sunday 14 March before the season proper launches late March/early April, with a spring competition planned later this year too.
The hope is to have four teams, comprised of five players with two substitutes, registered by the time the competition commences, which equates to roughly 30 players in total.
Matches will take place on a fortnightly basis on a Sunday afternoon.
CRRL competition and accreditation assistant Jen Pilosio told Canberra Weekly wheelchair rugby league is for “absolutely everyone” regardless of age, gender and ability.
“It’s for families and friends of all different kinds,” she said.
“We attended the Amaroo sport expo Friday last week and these kids were like ‘can we play?’ … it was great exposure,” she said.
While wheelchair rugby league bears many resemblances to regular rugby league, there are some distinct differences.
Namely, wheelchair rugby league is usually played across three basketball courts; however, the CRRL competition will be played across two.
Each team fields five players on the court at a time, three of whom must be wheelchair-bound participants.
While teams attack and defend in a line like conventional rugby league, players are “tackled” by removing arm tags like in Oztag.
Kicking is done with an Australian Rules-style handball. Conversions are taken with the fist on a modified, elevated kicking tee.
Over time, Ms Pilosio said the CRRL aspires to establish a central wheelchair rugby league hub for regional NSW and the Canberra region.
“We want to reach out to absolutely everyone in these areas to build a team to play in the State of Origin,” she said.
“We’re just building a strategy to reach out to disability groups and community rugby league local clubs in Wagga, Albury, South Coast, and increase contact in these areas.”
While this will mark the launch of a local competition, the Canberra Raiders have a wheelchair rugby league team competing in the two-tier Sydney competition.
Comprising the extended family of a couple of wheelchair-bound athletes, the Raiders team won the competition last year.
“That was so great,” Ms Pilosio said. “It’s great to see that mates can play together; family members can play and it’s all inclusive.”
Canberra Raiders NRL players Tom Starling, Darby Medlyn and Harry Rushton are all CRRL wheelchair rugby league ambassadors.
While yet to play the modified code, Ms Pilosio said the Raiders ambassadors are all “very keen to get involved”.
“With coronavirus we haven’t been able to contact our players as they’ve been in the bubble, but so far no NRL bubble this year so we should be able to get in contact with them a little bit more,” she said.
People interested in registering for the CRRL wheelchair rugby league come and try day on either Sunday 28 February or 14 March at QPRC Indoor Sports can do so via eventbrite.
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