The weekly sessions will take place every Monday between 6.30pm and 7.30pm at Sheffield Hallam University’s Pearson Sports Building. All equipment, including sports wheelchairs, will be available and no experience of playing Wheelchair Rugby League or taking part in wheelchair sports is required.
Andrea Dobson, Eagles Foundation development officer, said: “We’re very excited to be launching Wheelchair Rugby League in Sheffield. With large portions of the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup being played in the city later this year it is important to everyone that a legacy of that is the creation of a Wheelchair Rugby League team in Sheffield.
“We’re starting with some taster activity which we hope we can grow into a fully-fledged team playing in the competitive leagues, but we want to offer community activity for everyone to get involved in and be the staple of what we do. Wheelchair Rugby League is completely inclusive, with men and women, disabled and non-disabled people playing on the same team and our taster activity will also cater for people of all ages to take part.”
Kate Cox, head of physical activity and sport at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “I'm delighted we are able to accommodate these sessions and provide this fantastic opportunity to our students, staff and local community. I would encourage anyone to get involved and give it a go.”
David Knapton, sport participation coordinator at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “It’s great to be supporting the Eagles Foundation with this initiative because it provides a unique experience for our students and staff to try a new and fully inclusive sport over the summer."
The launch has been supported by almost £17,000 of funding from the CreatedBy RLWC2021 (Rugby League World Cup 2021) capital grants programme to purchase eight sports wheelchairs, balls, tags and cones for training, and will contribute towards the cost of goalposts and post protectors bespoke for Wheelchair Rugby League.
The Eagles Foundation has also received a £1,150 grant from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities fund, distributed by the Rugby Football League, which will support the venue hire for the introductory sessions, fund a training course for coaches and create promotional activity for the sessions.
David Butler, trustee of the Eagles Foundation, said: “We’re very grateful to Sport England and the Rugby Football League for their support of Wheelchair Rugby League in Sheffield and our ambitions to make Rugby League more accessible and available to a wider range of players. We know that Wheelchair Rugby League is one of the most inclusive sports there is and we’re looking forward to adding this to the activities that we deliver.”
The CreatedBy RLWC2021 programme is a funding pot of up to £10 million made available by the government to support the legacy of the Rugby League World Cup by growing participation in the sport. It is delivered in partnership between RLWC2021, the sport’s national governing body, the Rugby Football League, Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
Jon Dutton, chief executive of RLWC2021, said: “The CreatedBy RLWC2021 capital grants programme is focused on ensuring the next generation of Rugby League players have the best possible experience and barriers to participate are removed. We are delighted to award this grant to the Eagles Foundation and look forward to seeing the results of this investment that aims to deliver real change in their community.”
Ralph Rimmer, chief executive of the Rugby Football League, said: “Hosting the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 offers so many opportunities for everyone involved in the game in this country and beyond, and the facilities that will be delivered by the CreatedBy RLWC2021 capital grants programme will be a big part of that transformation. The RFL are proud to be involved in that process, and we congratulate all the successful applicants - and look forward to the impact of this unprecedented level of investment in the game for years to come.”
The sessions at Sheffield Hallam’s collegiate campus come as the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Sheffield hosts the Wheelchair Rugby League mid-season international between England and Wales tomorrow (Saturday, June 26) – with the game set to be the first streamed live by BBC Sport.
Anyone interested in taking part in Wheelchair Rugby League is encouraged to contact Andrea Dobson, Eagles Foundation development officer: [email protected] or 07960 135699.