Wheelchair rugby this week with Jon and Rowley Douglas (rowing gold medallist at the Sydney Olympics and Gold Challenge participant.) It’s a sport I’ve never played or even seen before so I was really looking forward to learning about it.
To find out more we joined Justin Frishberg and the London Wheelchair Rugby Club for three hours training at the Aspire Centre in Stanmore.
The first thing to say is that wheelchair rugby – or murderball as it’s also known – is really not much like rugby. It’s very much its own sport but, if I had to compare it to anything, then I’d say it has some similarities to American football. Goals are scored are by having the (round) ball in your control as you cross over the end line between two cones. There are no scrums or line outs and the ball can be passed forwards. Using your chair to block and collide with opposition players is also very much part of the game. Have a look at some of these videos to get a proper idea of how it works on the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby website.
Wheelchair rugby was created for people with upper and lower limb disabilities and, to ensure that everyone can take part, players are classified based on muscle function and strength. The points classification ranges from 0.5 points to 3.5 points and a team of four players can never total more than 8 points on the court at any one time.
The session was very serious and contained a number of GB team players including Steve Brown – the GB captain – and Jonny Coggan – the world’s best 0.5 point player (who greeted me with a head on chair collision and then proceeded to be charm itself as he helped me to learn the basics). We started with a lot of fitness work including ‘suicides’ (like shuttle runs) and catch-ups. We then moved onto a series of drills and ended up with some practice games. The whole thing was brilliant and the strength, skill and agility of some of the players has to be seen to be believed. I can only thank everyone for allowing us to take part.
If there are a group of you who’d like to try the sport – and I’d certainly encourage everyone to give it a go – then get in touch with the Gold Challenge office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7099 8895) and we’ll pass your details onto Justin and his team. (There would be a charge – the money goes to help run the sport in this country – but I think I can promise you a great day.)