Australia to host 2018 wheelchair rugby world championship

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia is the number one ranked wheelchair rugby team in the world and players will get to show their home crowds their talents when the 2018 World Championships comes to Sydney.

Disability Sports Australia CEO Jenni Cole said the sport played a crucial role in many people’s lives, well beyond just the match.

“What we've seen and I see this everyday is that when people play sport and they've got a disability it's more than just playing sport, it changes their lives,” she said.

“We see athletes for example who have had a spinal cord injury and during their rehabilitation have thought that life's over, that there's not much more they can do.

“When they suddenly realise they can play sport and they see other people with similar injuries doing they never imagined they could do again - having fun, being a bit crazy, it changes their lives.”

Queensland and NSW are two powerhouse states. Photo: ARU MediaCole said the 2018 championships would open doors for wheelchair rugby in untapped parts of the community.

“Wheelchair rugby is already one of the favourite Paralympic sports for Australians, we're number one in the world, we're the world champions but I think what we will find is it will bring wheelchair rugby to the broader community in a way that we haven't seen since Sydney 2000,” she said.

“We're also hoping to really start to interact more with the multicultural community and reach athletes with a disability from those communities that maybe we haven’t seen as many of yet.

“Get some more awareness around newly injured people and the politicians and other members of the community.

Victoria Thunder player Jason Lees said the sport had given him a new lease on life, after an accident.

“For me it was just a way to meet other people in wheelchairs, staying fit, being part of a team again which is something I love doing,” he said.

“Before my accident I played AFL I was always part of a team and just that mateship you get from being a part of a team is something a lot of guys really enjoy.”

The physicality of wheelchair rugby, Lees said, was one of the best elements of the game, something that many of the players had found in sports before their injuries.

“Getting to hit other guys in wheelchairs is a pretty cool thing,” he joked.

“It's probably what we like most about playing, the physical side of the game and when you can win as a team after the game hanging out with the boys and stuff like that, it's a good feeling.”

The National Wheelchair Rugby Championships are on until July 9 at Netball Central, with four Australian states, New Zealand and Japan all part of the competition.