Ability, not Disability
In 2017, we held the first open trials for what would become our Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) and Learning Disability RL teams. Little did we know this would be the first step on the road to a Rugby League World Cup.
Along the way we’ve had some incredible people join our journey, some amazing experiences including a trip to Australia for Warrington Wolves PDRL Team to become the inaugural World Club PDRL champions, we’ve won two of the last three UK Grand Finals.
What started off as a game in the freezing cold at Victoria Park is now a league made up of seven teams playing the sport they love. This is set to grow in 2023 as we hope to welcome a further three PDRL teams from the rugby league community.
All this is continuing the journey to the PDRL Rugby League World Cup.
We were incredibly proud to be given the opportunity to host this in Warrington, with the group games being played at our fantastic facility at Victoria Park, and the final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Sunday 30th October.
The crowds were amazing, with over 1000 people turning up to each of the group stages and an estimated 2000 people watching the PDRL RLWC final at the Halliwell Jones, plus this was also broadcast LIVE on the biggest stage of all, the BBC iPlayer.
Four Warrington Lions
Furthermore of the 18-strong PDRL England squad, we were also incredibly proud to have had four Warrington players named, Adam Morris, Mike Addison, Jamie Barnett and Anthony Seward. We were delighted to find our what their England PDRL journey means to each player:
“It meant a lot to be part of the first PDRL England squad. The staff and players did an incredible job and made it an unforgettable experience.”
Anthony Seward, England PDRL
“To be picked for your country at any level is an honour and a privilege but to play for your country in a world cup final and win is surreal and something I’ll never ever forget.”
Adam Morris, England PDRL
“To even be selected for the England PDRL squad was amazing – to actually be named in the starting team at the PDRL World Cup final – wow, I can’t put that into words!”
Mike Addison, England PDRL
The Rugby League World Cup has also given some amazing opportunities to our Game Changer volunteers to get involved in an international tournament.
Over 20 Warrington Wolves Foundation volunteers were involved with the tournament, working in roles ranging from Team Liaisons to Ball Crew, it was amazing to see so many people give up their time to ensure this tournament was a big success – and that it was!
Without the hard work of these volunteers, the tournament wouldn’t have run as smoothly, in fact it felt like nothing was too big a task. The Rugby League World Cup has also given young volunteer group – WireZ – a chance to perform some big roles on the international stage, and a lot of responsibility at a young age!
We are truly grateful for all the time given to the community by our amazing Game Changers and WireZ.
Jamie Barnett, Vice Chair of our WireZ, was called up to play for the winning England PDRL squad and said:
“I’m very proud – I was shocked to get the call up – but very happy”
Community Integrated Care
Through our partnership with Craig and Kurtis at Community Integrated Care, we were delighted to see so many of our inclusive participants volunteering at the PDRL RLWC too. From Media to Guest Services to predicting scores, this was also a fantastic opportunity for our participants to get involved in an international sporting event.
We were able to engage 15 inclusive volunteers – and seeing these volunteers on a national and international stage was amazing – the pure joy and excitement they brought to the tournament was brilliant!
Learning Disability Super League
24 of our LDSL players took part in a 30 minute showcase of the sport ahead of the Papua New Guinea v Cook Islands match on 25th October. For the players to experience playing rugby not only on a Super League pitch, but a pitch that has held 4 amazing Rugby League World Cup games is a true honour and something that these participants will never forget. A particular highlight for us was that one participant, Matt Price, stated that he ‘would never stop playing this game’, and this is the legacy of Rugby League World Cup; a brilliant opportunity for all of our players, for which we are so grateful.
in summary of the incredible week, Neil Kelly, Foundation Director and disability rugby pioneer said:
“Disability Rugby League is rooted into Warrington’s DNA, the development of the sport has provided not only opportunities to participate in a game our athletes love, but embraces amazing stories that inspire our community. These players are becoming roles models because of their ability not their disability. If you’re not convinced come down and watch a game”
Jamie Barnett, Vice Chair of our WireZ, plus the RLWC-winning England PDRL team
L-R – Warrington Wolves PDRL England winners, Adam Morris, Mike Addison, Jason El-Kaleh (coaching team) Jamie Barnett, Anthony Seward