Appeal for wheelchair rugby players to form first Norfolk club
As another golden Paralympics stays fresh in the memory, Murderball players in Norfolk are in the process of setting up the first dedicated club in the county.
Without a local club, players currently have to travel to Woodbridge, and with the help of Norfolk RFU and group of players want to raise £34,000 to pay for chairs and equipment.
Boosted by £10,000 from Sports England and £6,000 of further fund-raising, the Norfolk Knights are aiming to fund eight chairs at £2,400 each, as well as additional costs in setting up the club.
Darren Wiles, who was a victim of a motorcycle accident two years ago and lost the use of his legs, is spearheading the effort.
“For people in north Norfolk it is much more difficult to get involved because the nearest club is Woodbridge,” he said. “We are trying to influx people from further away to close that gap. “One ambition of ours is to get a trailer where we can transport the chairs and take them to schools and colleges around Norfolk to increase disability awareness. There is nothing more levelling than going out there and seeing what it is like for people. “It is quite difficult to know how many disabled people there are in Norfolk. If you are disabled what sport offering is there for you here?”
What is murderball?
Wheelchair rugby, (originally murderball, and known as quad rugby in the United States), is a team sport for athletes with a disability. It is practised in over twenty-five countries around the world and is a summer Paralympic sport.
The US name is based on the requirement that all wheelchair rugby players need to have disabilities that include at least some loss of function in at least three limbs. Although most have spinal cord injuries, players may also qualify through multiple amputations, neurological disorders or other medical conditions. Players are assigned a functional level in points, and each team is limited to fielding a team with a total of eight points.
Wheelchair rugby is played indoors on a hardwood court, and physical contact between wheelchairs is an integral part of the game - with the rules including elements from wheelchair basketball, ice hockey, handball and rugby union.
The sport is governed by the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) which was established in 1993.
With the help of Great British Wheelchair Rugby, the club have been holding taster sessions, with the next on November 12 at Easton College
Mr Wiles is encouraging people to join because he has enjoyed so many benefits from the sport. “When I was in rehab, which lasts about four and a half months, I was researching what I would be able to do when I left - things like handcycles I could buy,” he said. “I was at Sheffield rehabilitation centre and I could see them play on a weekly basis, so I thought I wanted to have a go at that. Before the accident I used to surf and do a lot of sports, but never rugby. “This has helped massively to keep me fit, and it gives you a real sense of well-being. I am medically retired now, but I run this club and I couldn’t believe I never had time to do things like this before my accident when I was working. “People can see this as quite an aggressive sport, but when you are in the chair you are totally safe, and it looks worse than it is.”
Jerry Stone, chairman of Norfolk RFU, said further grants have been applied for, including for Norfolk Community Foundation.
Wheelchair rugby is accessible to all because of a points system ensuring each team has an even balance of players and abilities.
Anyone who wants to get involved in the team or wishes to be a sponsor can find contact details on the Norfolk Knights Wheelchair Rugby Facebook page.