The Wheelaroos are set to play World Cup warm-up games in London ahead of the tournament’s opening game against England, having secured a major sponsor for the first time.
Australia is the only country in the southern hemisphere to participate in the World Cup in England at the end of the season, which will take place along with the men’s and women’s tournaments, and coach Brett Clark is keen to see some international competition before he takes it on November 3. London takes on the hosts. †
Clark oversaw a training camp for Wheelaroos last weekend, where the players were told that Brisbane-based financial services firm Skyring had agreed to support the team’s World Cup campaign.
Martin Meredith, chairman of wheelchair Rugby League Australia, said the announcement was a major boost for the players and their preparations for the World Cup.
“We haven’t had a sponsor before so it’s quite unique and it was great to see the reactions from the guys,” said Meredith.
“They said how good it feels to have a sponsor’s name on the shirt, so it was very important to them. The atmosphere was fantastic and we really had a camp.”
The camp was the third camp for the Wheelaroos this year, but like their Kangaroos and Jillaroos counterparts, the team has not played together since late 2019, when Australia hosted England in a series of two Tests in Liverpool and Wollongong.
Meredith said he hoped the Wheelaroos could host two World Cup warm-up matches before meeting England, Ireland and Spain in pool matches at London’s Copperbox Arena in November.
France, which won the 2017 World Cup and is the country’s number 1, is in the other group with Wales, Scotland and the United States.
“We are the only nation in the southern hemisphere currently competing in wheelchairs, so it’s a real battle for us to get international competitions. That’s why we want to play some pre-tournament games,” said Meredith.
“What this sponsorship from Skyring allows us to do is ensure that we can now go to England for a five-day pre-tournament camp and play those warm-up matches.
“The World Cup was fantastic as they cover all of our accommodation when the World Cup starts, but we probably need to go a little earlier to acclimate and play a few warm-up matches. With this sponsorship we can cover those extra costs.”
Skyring CEO David Mardell, who attended the training camp to present the players with their new jerseys, said his company was delighted to be working with the Wheelaroos as they prepare for the World Cup in England later this year.
“We admire the team’s determination and competitiveness to be the best in the world and we couldn’t be more proud to play a small part within the team that is proud to represent their country,” said Mardell.
Wheelaroos ready for World Cup challenge
Wheelchair rugby league is a fast paced, entertaining and highly physical branch of the game.
There are five players per side on the pitch at a time, with each team allowed to have two AB (able to have) players, making wheelchair rugby league one of the most inclusive sports out there.
It is two 40 minute halves and the same points as the running game. The ‘playing field’ is 50 meters long and 25 meters wide, divided over three indoor basketball courts.
Rules are similar: players must pass backwards, possession changes after six tackles. A ‘tackle’ is made by tearing off an opponent’s Velcro shoulder tag,
Kicks in the field, conversions, penalties and field goals are hand-hit. A play-the-ball is made by tapping the football on the ground before passing.