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The Wheelaroos squad at a World Cup training camp in Brisbane

The Wheelaroos are set to play World Cup warm-up matches in London ahead of the opening game of the tournament against England after securing a major sponsor for the first time.

Australia is the only Southern Hemisphere nation competing at the end of season World Cup in England, which will run in tandem with the men’s and women’s tournaments, and coach Brett Clark is keen for some international competition before taking on the hosts in London on November 3.

Clark oversaw a Wheelaroos training camp last weekend at which the players were told that Brisbane-based financial services company Skyring had agreed to back the team’s World Cup campaign.

Wheelchair Rugby League Australia chair Martin Meredith said the announcement was a significant boost for the players and their preparations for the World Cup.

Australian Wheelchair Rugby League chair Martin Meredith and Skyring CEO David Mardell
Australian Wheelchair Rugby League chair Martin Meredith and Skyring CEO David Mardell

“We haven’t had a sponsor before, so it is quite unique and it was amazing to see the reactions of the guys,” Meredith said.

“They were saying how good it feels to have the name of a sponsor on the jersey so it was really important to them. The mood was fantastic, and we had a really camp.”

The camp was the third for the Wheelaroos this year but, like their Kangaroos and Jillaroos counterparts, the team has not played together since late 2019 when Australia hosted England in a two-Test series at Liverpool and Wollongong.

Meredith said it was hoped the Wheelaroos could organise two World Cup warm-up matches before they meet England, Ireland and Spain in pool matches at London’s Copperbox Arena in November.

The Wheelaroos last Test was against England in 2019
The Wheelaroos last Test was against England in 2019

France, who won the 2017 World Cup and are ranked the No.1 nation, are in the other pool with Wales, Scotland and the United States.

“We are the only Southern Hemisphere nation that currently competes in Wheelchair so to get international games is a real struggle for us. That is the reason we want to play some pre-tournament games,” Meredith said.

“What this sponsorship from Skyring enables us to do is make sure we can now go to England for a five-day pre-tournament camp and play those warm-up matches.

“The World Cup has been fantastic in that they are covering all of our accommodation when the World Cup starts but we probably need to go a bit earlier to acclimatise and play a few warm-up games. This sponsorship allows us to cover those additional costs."

Skyring CEO David Mardell, who attended the training camp to present the players with their new jerseys, said his company was delighted to be partnering with the Wheelaroos as they prepare for the World Cup in England later this year.

"We admire the team’s determination and competitiveness to be the best in the world and we couldn’t be prouder to be able to play a small role within the team who want to proudly represent their country," Mardell said.

Wheelaroos ready for World Cup challenge

Wheelchair rugby league is a fast, entertaining, and highly physical branch of the game.

There are five players per side on court at a time, with each team allowed two AB (able-bodied) players making wheelchair rugby league one of the most inclusive sports around.

It’s two 40-minute halves, and the same points scoring as the running game. The ‘field of play’ is 50-metres in length and 25-metres wide, across three indoor basketball courts.

Rules are similar – players must pass backwards, possession changes after six tackles. A ‘tackle’ is made by ripping off the Velcro shoulder tag of an opposition player,

Kicks downfield, conversions, penalties and field goals are hand-punted. A play-the-ball is made by tapping the football on the ground before passing.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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