The Wheelaroos will play warm-up games for the World Cup ahead of the tournament’s opening game against England in London, having secured a major sponsorship for the first time.
Australia are the only Southern Hemisphere nation to take part in the season-ending World Cup in England, which runs alongside the men’s and women’s tournaments, and coach Brett Clark is looking forward to some international competition before returning to England on 3 November London takes on the hosts .
Clark chaired a Wheelaroos training camp last weekend where players were told Brisbane-based financial services firm Skyring had agreed to back the team’s World Cup campaign.
Wheelchair Rugby League Australia chairman Martin Meredith said the announcement was a significant boost to players and their preparations for the World Cup.
“We haven’t had a sponsor before so it’s quite unique and it’s been amazing to see the reaction from the guys,” said Meredith.
“They said how good it feels to have a sponsor’s name on the jersey, so it really mattered to them. The atmosphere was fantastic and we had a real camp.”
The camp was the Wheelaroos’ third this year, but like their fellow Kangaroos and Jillaroos, the team have not played together since late 2019, when Australia hosted England in a two-Test series at Liverpool and Wollongong.
Meredith said it was hoped the Wheelaroos could organize two World Cup warm-up games before they meet England, Ireland and Spain in pool games at London’s Copperbox Arena in November.
France, who won the 2017 World Cup and are ranked No. 1 in the nation, are in the other pool with Wales, Scotland and the United States.
“We’re the only nation in the southern hemisphere currently competing in wheelchairs, so it’s a real struggle for us to win international games. That’s why we want to play some games before the tournament,” said Meredith.
“This sponsorship of Skyring allows us to ensure that we can now go to England for a five day pre-tournament camp and play those warm-up games.
“The World Cup has been fantastic in that they cover all of our accommodations when the World Cup starts, but we’ll probably need to leave a little earlier to acclimatize and play a few warm-up games. This sponsorship allows us to cover these additional costs.”
Skyring CEO David Mardell, who attended the training camp to present the players with their new kits, said his company is excited to partner 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 prouder to play a small role within the team that proudly seeks to represent their country,” said Mardell.
Wheelaroos ready for the World Championship challenge
The wheelchair rugby league is a fast paced, fun and highly physical branch of the game.
There are five players per side, with each team allowing two AB (non-disabled) players, making wheelchair rugby one of the most inclusive sports out there.
It’s two 40-minute halves and the same score as the running game. The “playing field” is 50 meters long and 25 meters wide and extends over three indoor basketball courts.
The rules are similar – players must pass backwards, possession changes after six tackles. A “tackle” is performed by ripping off an opposing player’s Velcro shoulder label.
Kicks down, conversions, penalties and field goals are scored by hand. A play-the-ball is made by tapping the soccer ball on the ground before the pass.