QE is hosting a wheelchair rugby league taster session for the wider community to introduce potential players to the inclusive sport as part of its health and wellbeing week. The College is inviting members of the public – both able-bodied and disabled – to take part in a special seated rugby workshop led by professional rugby league club Newcastle Thunder on Tuesday (21st March) from 5.00pm.

Jason Grant, Senior Development Officer at Newcastle Thunder, said the sport is ‘fully inclusive’ with men and women of any age, with or without disabilities, playing together at all levels, including elite-level competitions. ‘On the back of the success of the wheelchair rugby league World Cup last year there’s been an increased interest in the sport. We’re trying to form a team and want to get the message out there that this is a fun, wholly inclusive sport,’ he said. ‘Tuesday’s session at QE is a great opportunity for people to learn more about the game and see how they can get involved, either by playing or volunteering.’

Newcastle Thunder will be at QE throughout the day to introduce students to wheelchair rugby league before hosting the community drop-in session in the college’s sports hall. Second year student Amy Burton plays rugby at college, club and county level, and was recently selected to attend a series of u18 England training camps. She hopes to play professional rugby union and coach the sport. ‘Rugby is a massive part of my life. It helps so much with physical and mental health, and I have made friendships for life,” said the 18-year-old, who has played at Darlington Mowden Park for seven years. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to give rugby a go and would encourage people to come along to the wheelchair rugby session, get active, meet new people and have fun.’

Wheelchair rugby has grown in popularity following the success of the Great Britain wheelchair rugby team, which won gold at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The England wheelchair rugby league team won the World Cup final in November in a compelling 28-24 clash against top-ranked team France. The sport was developed by French rugby league player and coach Wally Salvan in 2004 and is unique in that people without disabilities are allowed to compete at top level.

Rugby enthusiast Kit Hodgson is a first year student studying Sport and Leisure at QE and hopes to take a sport coaching degree at university. He said: ‘Tuesday is a great opportunity for students and members of the community to take part in a sport they perhaps know nothing about or have never considered.’

Nancy Wall, Sport and Leisure course leader at QE, organised the rugby session as part of a programme of activities taking place at the college during its health and wellbeing week. She added: ‘We want to give our students, and those in the wider community across Darlington, Teesside and further afield, the chance to try an exciting new sport. This is open to people of all ages and backgrounds, from disabled groups to veterans, and we look forward to welcoming new faces to the college.’

The drop-in taster session is taking place at QE between 5.00pm and 7.00pm on Tuesday March 21st. For more information email [email protected].