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Wheelchair Rugby League ready to roll into new season

The success of the recent Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup tournament saw the sport attract huge interest and plenty of new fans, and NRL Wheelchair administrators are hoping to see an increase in participant numbers when sign on opens this coming Monday (January 30).

A record crowd of 4526 attended a thrilling final at Manchester Central to witness England end France’s domination in the World Cup arena, adding to the more than one million viewers who tuned into the coverage on the BBC.

Match Highlights: France v England

In Australia, the game’s popularity also reached new heights as well, helped by the fact the tournament was played for the first time alongside the men’s and women’s “running game” tournaments.

Many of the rules of wheelchair rugby league align with those of the running game with 40-minute halves and passes having to go backwards. However, one of the main appeals of the game is its inclusivity, with teams being mixed gender with no age restrictions. The starting team consists of five players, with up to two able-bodied players allowed on the field at any given time.

As well as looking for new players for this upcoming season; leagues and clubs are also in need of coaches, trainers, managers and referees to help grow the game and build on the huge performances of the Wheelaroos in last year’s tournament where they reached the semi-finals.

A winner with England, Jack Brown – who also coached the Queensland Wheelchair team to State of Origin glory last year – said he was thrilled to see the fans embrace the game at the World Cup.

“While we've been getting around the sides and talking to all the kids and families … we have had a lot of people come down and said it's the first time they've seen rugby league full stop, and they are hooked, and I think that's the overall factor of it,” Brown told following England’s win.

“This is rugby league; wheelchairs are the same as a boot or a leg or anything, it's just a tool to play rugby league and we've made rugby league fans today and that's what we wanted to do. That was the goal.”

Brown was also pleased to see the skill on display from all the national teams involved, including first timers the United States of America and big improvers Australia, who rose to third in the international rankings following their breakout performance. Cult favourite Queenslander Bayley McKenna was also named in the Team of the Tournament in another huge boost for the national team. 

Brown, who coached McKenna in Origin last year, played against him in the opening round game as England took on Australia in a competitive match and was full of praise for how far the Wheelaroos had progressed in recent years.

“It was tough (playing against them) … I've been coaching a lot of them boys and they were tough,” Brown said of facing off against his Maroons charges in the Australian team.

“They did a lot of what I've been telling them to do over the last two years … they've been incredible throughout the tournament and everyone has only talked about the difference in them since last year to this year.

Match Highlights: England v Australia

“They're going be there – they’re in the same spot that England were a couple of years ago, when we’d be going over to France and we used to be getting hammered and they say ‘oh, you'll get there eventually’.


“It's like they are just there, they are ready to go and it's just one percenters that’s going to get them into a final.”


With the next Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup being held in France in 2025, there is plenty of time for new players from all backgrounds to get involved and push to earn selection in the Wheelaroos team.


Interested players and volunteers can find out more about the game or sign up to be involved at the NRL Wheelchair website.


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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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