The RFL is delighted to support International Disability Awareness Day on Friday December 3 – an opportunity for all to focus on and show a greater understanding of the adversity faced by those with physical and mental disabilities across the world.
It’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate outstanding contributions to the sport. Wheelchair Rugby League has had more eyes on it than ever, PDRL is thriving, and LDRL has doubled in number of participants since 2019.
England Wheelchair have played three internationals, all streamed live by the BBC, and all memorable occasions – against Wales at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, and a two-Test series against France at Medway Sports Park in Kent.
Wales competed courageously before England turned on the style in the summer for a 102-22 win.
France then provided an ominous warning of the challenges that lie ahead in next year’s World Cup, in two memorable contests.
At club level, Leeds Rhinos capped off a memorable treble against Leyland Warriors as the Sky Sports cameras captured history being made – Tom Halliwell’s side added the final piece of the jigsaw following their Betfred Challenge Cup & League Leaders’ Shield victories. The growth we saw within Wheelchair Rugby League in 2021 means Leeds are set to face stiffer competition next year, as the Super League expands to an eight-team competition where a fresh chapter with old rivals and new entrants Wigan Warriors will begin.
Physical Disability Rugby League
A milestone year for PDRL saw a debut as a fully classified and internationally recognisable disability sport. To mark such an occasion, the inaugural Lancashire vs Yorkshire Origin fixture took place at Victoria Park in Warrington.
England Community Lions PDRL Head Coach, Shaun Briscoe stated before the game that it was a “great opportunity showcase physical disability Rugby League to a wider audience”.
A season that started on the back of an enforced 18-month absence came to its conclusion when Warrington Wolves met Wakefield Trinity at York St. John’s University and the Our League cameras. Warrington claimed a 12-0 victory as they defended their title again, scoring in the dying seconds after a hard-fought display from Wakefield.
Following the postponement of RLWC2021, fresh plans for a six-team PDRL World Cup were announced – and Briscoe has named an England Community Lions PDRL training squad.
Chris Godfrey, the RFL’s Social and Inclusion Manager, said: “This is a landmark moment for Rugby League and PDRL as a sport. It is the first England squad ever named and the first international Rugby League team in the world that has been through a robust classification process. These are huge strides for the sport especially coming out of lockdowns and the global pandemic.”
Learning Disability Rugby League
Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding participation in LDRL due to Covid-19 restrictions at the start of the year, the RFL worked with long-term partners Community Integrated Care to allow the Learning Disability Super League community to remain active at home. The LDSL Rugby League World Cup Skills Journal meant that all players received a ball amongst other resources on their 33-week journey of challenges.
The return of LDRL in June produced yet another milestone for the sport – over 200 players got onto the pitch across 13 different locations, meaning the amount of participants had doubled since LDRL was last played in 2019.
The record-breaking return to LDRL was capped off in September, with a festival finale in York – the players got the chance to meet England International & RLWC2021 Ambassador Jodie Cunningham, where personal highlights and stories of those who inspire them were told. Warrington Wolves’ Ben Mitchell reflected on the feeling of scoring his first proper Rugby League try, and Leeds Rhinos’ Declan Jenkinson named Rhinos & Rugby League legend Rob Burrow as the man who inspired him to play. An engaging, refreshing discussion between a bunch of talented LDRL players with a real passion for our sport, that offered an insight into many more stories.