This year’s National Wheelchair Rugby Championships in late June are a highlight in the inclusive sporting calendar, to say the least. It’s the largest event in the Southern Hemisphere for the sport in 2022. To find out more, Blue Badge Insurance spoke to Chris Nay, General Manager for Wheelchair Rugby Australia.
New Zealand will be attending the championships against Australia’s state teams. So there’s an international flavour to it. But there’s also a really big level of excitement given we had to cancel the event due to COVID in 2020 and 2021.
– Chris Nay
In our interview, we discovered what you can expect from the upcoming championships and we learned about the history and future of the game.
What to expect from the June National Wheelchair Rugby Championships
The upcoming Wheelchair Rugby National Championships are being held on the Gold Coast from 24 June. If you’d like to get motivated to get your tickets, check out this video:
For those who can attend in person, this is a not-to-be-missed national event. You can expect a ton of adrenalin and energy on the court and you’ll go home feeling charged with vitality and energy.
For those who can’t be there in person, the action will be streamed via Kayo Sports and you can catch daily highlights on Fox Sports. The key details for this National Wheelchair Rugby Championships are as follows:
|When||24 – 26 June 2022||Friday – Sunday|
|Where||Gold Coast Sport and Leisure Centre||Carrara, QLD 4211|
|Tickets||Day tickets and whole event passes available||Book here|
How COVID impacted wheelchair rugby
Although this year’s National Wheelchair Rugby Championships are the first since COVID protocols have eased, during the ‘downtime’ the sport flourished.
Australia is really going through a Renaissance of wheelchair rugby. In 2018, we only had three domestic teams at this event. We’ve now got seven plus the addition of New Zealand, which shows a doubled growth in a four year period.
– Chris Nay, General Manager for Wheelchair Rugby Australia
Chris says, “[during COVID] we were effectively able to reset a little bit and recalculate what we were doing with our pathways and the sport. It bought us the time to restructure things and positively re-engage our community.”
Fast facts about wheelchair rugby in Australia
Wheelchair rugby is one of the few sports on the planet that welcomes men and women on the playing field (so to speak) alongside one another. Plus, unlike wheelchair basketball and many other wheelchair sports, wheelchair rugby caters to quadriplegia. It enables sportspeople with reduced arm and hand function to participate equally.
Here are some top wheelchair rugby facts:
- World champions. Australia is currently ranked #4 worldwide by World Wheelchair Rugby (IWRFA) and held the #1 position from 2012 – 2020.
- Gold medallists. The Australian Steelers are the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic champions, holding gold medals for both those events and the 2014 World Championships in Denmark
- 1976. The year wheelchair rugby started (in Canada)
- 1993. It becomes an officially recognised sport for athletes with a disability with 15 competing countries
- 1994. The International Paralympic Committee recognises wheelchair rugby as a Paralympic sport
- 1995. 1st Wheelchair Rugby World Championships take place in Switzerland with eight competing teams
- 2000. Wheelchair Rugby is recognised as a full medal sport at the Sydney Paralympic Games
- Gender equality. Wheelchair rugby is one of the few sports where women and men get to compete on the same teams and in the same competitions
- A diverse game. Wheelchair rugby combines elements from rugby, handball and basketball
- Murderball. Yes, collisions form a major part of this high-energy contact sport and it was originally called ‘murderball.’ However, it’s worth knowing that wheelchair rugby chairs are designed to minimise bodily impact.
Tools of the trade: a sporting wheelchair
Although it’s a fast contact sport, the customised chairs are well-designed to give a lot of support and protection. As any sportsman or woman knows, in sport you do get injuries, but you also have the chance to grow, develop and push yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.
The chair used in professional wheelchair rugby has several supporting wheels underneath to provide balance. The two main wheels are used for pushing as well as stabilizing. Players in defending roles also have a big grill guard at the front and a bigger chair used for blocking.
“The game is so dynamic. There are so many intricacies involved that the more you learn, the more you realise you can’t ever stop learning new things about it. And the more that you learn, the more you love and appreciate the breadth and depth of it.”
– Chris Nay
Players in scoring positions use chairs that are designed for speed, manoeuvrability and agility and are smaller in size to work the court. Each chair is really bespoke and specific to each individual. Factors like the height, depth etc. get fitted properly for a tailored chair to work the rugby court.
Despite being a brutal sport, chairs are designed to contain the athlete’s body within the perimeter of the chair. So as long as they’re strapped in and they don’t leave it, all the contact is unlikely to happen to actual body parts.
Who can play wheelchair rugby?
You don’t have to have played before, or be a pro to get involved and play the game. Australia has several wheelchair rugby pathways available to newbies all the way to top classifications. Click here to get involved.
Besides playing the game there are several ways to be part of wheelchair rugby. Chris says the sport always requires a number of motivated officials, from referees and coaches to volunteers.
Want to be involved? Get in touch here here with Wheelchair Rugby Australia (WRA). WRA is an independent division of Disability Sports Australia that can help direct you to your local hub so you can get involved.
Chris says wheelchair rugby is gaining popularity around the globe. There is an ever increasing number of tier one and tier two wheelchair rugby nations as well as developing nations participating.
In terms of things to come there are plans underfoot to align our Wheelchair Rugby World Championships with the Rugby World Cup. Bringing together these two international events together in the same period and at the same host venue would benefit the sport greatly.
This is the intended plan for the 2027 World Cup (coincidentally this is in Australia), which is a big step for wheelchair rugby and our nation as a whole. Having this event at home will be a great highlight for the Australian Steelers and spectators alike.
Protecting your personal wheelchair
While Blue Badge Insurance doesn’t cover sporting equipment like wheelchairs for competitive impact sports, we do cover the wheelchair you use daily. Whether it’s custom, manual, or powered we offer a cost effective wheelchair insurance plan that helps you cover fees for repairs or replacement after an accident.
We also cover a large range of mobility equipment with mobility scooter insurance and car insurance for wheelchair accessible vehicles and converted cars. Find out about getting as much as 25% off disability car insurance if you hold a valid disability parking permit.
Click below to get a quote.
Photography by Joep Buijs