Wigan Warriors are have announced the launch of a new Wheelchair team for 2022 and beyond.
The Warriors have applied to be part of the Betfred Wheelchair Super League for 2022 as part of the expansion plan of the league from six to eight teams for the upcoming season.
Wigan have been boosted in their plan to launch their team with a successful Community Foundation bid for funding from the Rugby League World Cup Legacy fund.
The Warriors have used the funds to provide additional Wheelchairs for the team as well as supporting the team on a more general basis.
The Wheelchair team is an addition to the Community Foundation’s disability offer, alongside the current physical and learning disability teams.
Phil Roberts will be Head Coach of the new Wigan team and comes with great ties to the town. Roberts played for the former Wigan and District Wheelchair RL team and was the coach at Leyland Warriors, the team who faced Leeds Rhinos in the 2021 Wheelchair Super League Grand Final.
Speaking on the announcement, Roberts said: "We know there is a lot of support in the town for Wheelchair Rugby League, we know that there is a player base already and we believe that is going to be really exciting to get Wheelchair Rugby League going with the most famous Club in Rugby League and take that forward."
On developing a squad, he added: "We are aware that there are players who live in Wigan and who are huge fans of the Warriors, and there is a whole pool of talent out there that nobody has even tapped into, whether those people are disabled or non-disabled it doesn’t matter to us whatsoever, if they've got a desire to play Wheelchair Rugby League, we would love to hear from them and get them involved."
The Head Coach was firm in his belief that the newest Wigan Warriors team can be competitive: "That is my ultimate goal, to get Wigan Warriors to the Grand Final and win it, that's why we’re doing this.
"We really want to develop a player base, bring talent through, get new people into the game but with that aim of getting to the Grand Final and winning the Betfred Super League.
"It's just thrilling for everybody, and we know we’re going to be part of the Wigan Warriors Club with the PDRL and LDRL teams, the Women's team as well as the Super League and Academy teams. Just being part of that wider Club is really exciting for everybody."
The team also have the additional support of local company, MA Brickworks, who will be the main shirt sponsor. "We're really glad to have MA Brickworks support,” Roberts said. “As a company they are very heavily involved in Rugby League locally, so it is a fantastic opportunity for them to hopefully get involved. We hope we’re going to do them proud wearing their name on our shirts.”
Wigan are set to train and play at Robin Park Leisure Centre in the neighbouring building to Robin Park Arena, with the league format being a standard home and away fixture list for all teams.
Warriors Head of Community, Martin McLoughlin, said: "We're here to champion the life changing effects of being active, from better mental and physical health, to greater career opportunities and social cohesion.
"It's a proud and important moment in the Club's history to launch our Wheelchair team in what will be the Club’s 150th anniversary. A special thanks needs to go to Mark Alder and MA Brickworks for their continued fantastic support."
What is Wheelchair Rugby League?
It is played on a 46m x 20m court and is a five-a-side version of Rugby League. Teams include three physically disabled players and two non-disabled players. All players must play in a Sports Wheelchair. Each game lasts 80 minutes (2 x 40-minute halves).
Wigan Warriors are currently looking for new players to join the team. Open training sessions are set to start soon and anyone aged 16+ and male or female can get involved. If you are interested in having the chance to represent Wigan Warriors Wheelchair team, please contact Head Coach Phil Roberts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 07928549161.