Saturday’s Bravery Trust Wheelchair State of Origin is much more than just a game to the athletes who take part.
It’s a chance to represent their state, to press their claims for starting spots as this year’s Wheelchair World Cup, to come away with a trophy.
And for many, like Queensland Construction Sciences Maroons co-captain Zac Schumacher, it’s yet another opportunity to give back to the game that has given him so much.
It’s been six years since Schumacher first came across wheelchair rugby league at a “come and try” day in Townsville.
He had dabbled in wheelchair basketball previously but quickly developed a love for rugby league, qualifying for the Queensland team from that first day.
It was a fresh start for the 31-year-old who earlier that same year had been medically discharged from the Army.
“I joined the Army in 2009,” Schumacher said.
“I loved it. It was a great job. Interesting. But unfortunately I got injured … In the Army we did Thursday afternoon sports. I was playing tennis – just a bit of competition, exercise.
“I dislocated my hip. I did nine months of physio before they realised I needed an operation on it. I had four or five operations to repair the labrum cartilage and joint. I went through 12 months of rehab.
“Just before I was about to get upgraded, I dislocated it again doing a workout circuit at work.
“By 2014/15 I had another ridiculous amount of operations which led to a partial replacement and then a total hip replacement. I was then diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome and discharged.”
Schumacher was a cargo specialist in the Army, working with transports, forklifts and cranes, and he was in charge of a fleet of 100 vehicles.
A reason for his multiple hip dislocations – including two more in 2017 and 2018 – has never really been found. He had a third replacement in 2018.
He endured a lot over these years and started to struggle not only physically but mentally.
And this is when he discovered wheelchair rugby league.
“When I was discharged I pretty much couldn’t walk due to the pain and medication I was on,” he said.
“I was in a dark place and found wheelchair sports through a clinic. From there, I became heavily involved in running those programs and promoting them to current and ex-service personnel.
“It’s been life-changing. I wasn’t in a good spot with the injuries so to find something I love doing, and playing with my mates that are in the Queensland and Australian teams, it’s been unreal.”
Schumacher is now a participation and program officer for NRL Wheelchair and made his Australian debut in 2019.
His career highlights include starting for the Australian team in 2019 and being named co-captain of the Queensland side for this Saturday’s Origin clash.
The Maroons are preparing to defend their title, after they won their first Origin match in January in the postponed 2021 game.
That was another career highlight for Schumacher and he said Queensland are ready to go back-to-back.
“Winning that game in January, it was just unreal,” he said.
“All the guys in the team, they all worked so hard. It was the first time we had proper training camps before the game.
“Everyone knew their job, what they needed to do and it showed on the game day.
“I’m expecting Saturday to be a very physical, fast-paced game.
“It’s definitely going to go up a notch from January. The Blues are going to try and give it their all to take the shield back but I think we’re ready to defend that shield.”
Everything you need to know for the Bravery Trust Wheelchair State of Origin
Saturday, July 23, at 4.15pm
Townsville Stadium, Townsville
Queensland Construction Sciences Maroons
3. Shaun Harre (c), 8. Zac Schumacher (c), 1. Peter Arbuckle, 4. James Hill, 10. Cory Mostran, 6. Gage McAlpine, 7. Bayley McKenna, 2. Chris Robson, 9. Adam Tannock
Coach: Jack Brown
New South Wales Blues
2. Craig Cannane (c), 5. Brad Grove (c), 4. Jason Attard, 11. Cory Cannane, 1. William Derederenalagi, 14. Rick Engles, 7. Diab Karim, 3. Liam Luff, 8. Chris O'Brien, 9. Toby Popple
Coach: Edie George
Referees: Tim Robinson and Steve Hewson
Standby: Kale Popple
In-goal officials: Leslie Elliot and Jason Dale
3pm: Doors open
4.15pm: Bravery Trust Wheelchair State of Origin
6pm: Post-match presentation
Where to watch
Watch the Bravery Trust Wheelchair State of Origin live and free through Qplus.tv.