Saints are ready to spear the big boys
10:00am Monday 4th March 2013 in News
LESS than two years since forming, the first wheelchair rugby league team in the region are ready to face the best in the country.
The Swindon St George team have had their application to play in the National League Division 1 approved and will see them face established sides like Mersey Storm and Bradford Bulls.
Tony Ellis, who is an ex-paratrooper, set up the club with help from Ben Humphreys who had the money from the council to purchase the wheelchairs.
The game is a lot like the regular format with the ball only allowed to be passed backwards and each team retains possession for six tackles before it is passed over.
Players wear tags and to perform a ‘tackle’ a player must remove the tag from the opponent and a modified version of the play-the-ball is used after a tackle.
Tony said: “I set it up because I had the opportunity to and the help from Ben made it viable.
“It is all about having fun at the end of the day, and if we pick up a few wins along the way that would be great.
“This game is great because anybody can play it no matter your age or physical ability, and every one of the players has a story to tell.”
The team has experience in their side with Welsh wheelchair international Martin Lane, 41, of Eldene, who helps to coach the team and has aims of playing in the wheelchair rugby league world cup this year, which is held in England.
He said: “I had a fall two years ago and injured my back. I had an operation to correct it but it left me a paraplegic.
“Four months after coming out of hospital there was an open day at Dorcan School introducing people to a lot of disabled sports and I took up basketball and loved it and haven’t looked back.
“I would recommend it to anybody because it keeps you fit and is a great way to socialise.”
Peter Gaskin, 52, of North Swindon, had an accident at work leaving him in a wheelchair and took up the sport recently after watching the Paralympics.
He said: “I saw the Paralympics and I made contact with the club and said I wanted to play but I never turned up.
“I was at home and was just being a vegetable and a couple of weeks ago I plucked up the courage to come down and it is great.
“It helps with my fitness and gets you out meeting other people.”
If you are interested in playing for the team, contact Tony on the team Facebook page by searching ‘Swindon St George wheelchair rugby league’.