For Wheelchair Rugby League, the waiting is finally over.
The longest off-season in anybody’s memory, stretching back to Halifax’s Grand Final win against Leeds in September 2019, will end this weekend, with a Wheelchair 4’s Festival featuring 15 Club teams with a focus on safe return from Covid-19, and maximising time on the pitch.
And that will mark the start of what promises to be the most significant six months in Wheelchair Rugby League history, culminating in the World Cup Final at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool on November 26 – when Tom Coyd’s team aim to reclaim the title England last won in the inaugural Wheelchair RL World Cup way back in 2008.
England’s elite players have held a number of training camps over the last few months since the Lockdown restrictions finally eased, the most recent in Medway at the weekend.
But they are as keen as all the other domestic Wheelchair RL players to get back into competition – and in 2021, there are more teams than ever, meaning a new competition structure with a six-team Super League at the pinnacle, underpinned by a Championship now comprising North, South and West Conferences.
The Super League action will begin on Saturday May 29, with two events – Halifax, now carrying the same Panthers nickname as the town’s Betfred Championship club, launching the defence of their title against Hull FC and the Argonauts Skeleton Army from Kent, while Leeds Rhinos and North Wales Crusaders travel to Lancashire to face the Leyland Warriors in Preston.
That will be followed by a Betfred Wheelchair Rugby League Challenge Cup Festival at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on Saturday June 5, when 16 teams will be split into two sections of eight to contest places on Finals Day in July, also at the EIS.
Sheffield will be a real focus this summer, as it will also be the venue for the Mid-Season International between England and Wales on Saturday June 26 – with the game to be streamed live by BBC Sport in another exciting first for the Wheelchair game.
The 2021 Wheelchair Super League Grand Final has already been confirmed for Medway Park on September 18.
And then all eyes will turn to the World Cup, which kicks off with England taking on Australia at the Copper Box Arena in London’s Olympic Park on November 11.
Click the relevant links for more details on ticket availability for the Mid-Season International, and RLWC fixtures in London, Sheffield and the Final in Liverpool.
Wheelchair Rugby League 2021
Super League: Argonauts Skeleton Army, Halifax Panthers, Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos, Leyland Warriors, North Wales Crusaders.
Championship North: Bradford Bulls, Dundee Dragons, Mersey Storm, Newcastle Thunder, Rochdale Hornets, Wakefield Trinity.
Championship West: Celts, Hereford Harriers, North Wales Crusaders A, Torfaen Tigers, Warrington Wolves, West Wales Raiders.
Championship South: Argonauts Skeleton Army Demi-Gods, Bedford Tigers, Gravesend, Gravesend Dynamite, Medway Dragons, Woodland Warriors.