19th September 2019, 16:34 | wheelchair
Wheelchair Rugby League’s domestic season reaches its climax on Saturday (21 September), with a Grand Final double-header and plenty of fringe benefits for the fans at the Medway Leisure Centre in Gillingham.
Four sides from Yorkshire will be making the journey south to Kent, where Bradford Bulls take on Hull in the Championship Grand Final (kick off 5pm) before two giants of the wheelchair game, Leeds Rhinos and Halifax, contest the Super League Grand Final (7pm). Both finals matches will be broadcast live on Our League.
Adding to the day’s festival atmosphere will be free taster sessions during the afternoon for anyone who wants to get in a chair and give wheelchair rugby league a try.
Halifax and Leeds have been this season’s stand-out sides and the clash will feature a host of world class players, including many of the England players preparing to head 'Down Under' for an Ashes tour to Australia as part of the build up towards the 2021 World Cup.
The Rhinos are unbeaten in all competitions this season, clinching the League Leaders’ trophy with a victory over opponents Halifax and the Challenge Cup after a hard-fought final against the Argonauts. They’ll be led by England international and Rugby League World Cup ambassador James Simpson – one of four Leeds players selected for October’s Ashes tour.
Leeds Rhinos squad: Daniel Baines; Jodie Boyd-Ward; Joshua Butler; Ewen Clibbens;
Nathan Collins*; Josh Gardner; Tom Halliwell*; Ryan Richardson*; Steve Sampther; James Simpson (Capt.)*
*Selected for Ashes tour
Halifax were one of Wheelchair Rugby League’s founding members in 2005 and remain the sport’s most successful side, with five league titles and four challenge cup victories, including three league/cup doubles. Their skipper is joint head coach Wayne Boardman, a veteran of two world cups and one of three ‘Fax players who will be on the plane to Australia next month.
‘Fax also include Coral Batey, who in 2016 represented Great Britain at Murderball in the Paralympic Games in Brazil and Great Britain wheelchair basketball star Harry Brown, brother of teammate Jack.
Halifax squad: Coral Batey; Sébastien Bechara*; Wayne Boardman (Capt.)*; Harry Brown; Jack Brown; Tony Godward; Tom Green; Robert Hawkins; Tom Martin; Nathan Mulhall; Martin Norris.
*Selected for Ashes tour
Prior to the tour Down Under, the following players from Halifax and Leeds will represent England at the Wheelchair Rugby League Home Nations competition at Wrexham on 28/29 September.
Jodie Boyd-Ward, Josh Butler, Nathan Collins, Tom Halliwell, James Simpson (Leeds Rhinos) and Rob Hawkins (Halifax).
Competing for the Championship title are Bradford Bulls and Hull, both unbeaten after avoiding each other during the regular season.
Formed in 2009, the Bulls’ philosophy reflects the wheelchair game in general – an inclusive approach which brings together both disabled and non-disabled people of all sexes. Included in the Bulls squad are player-coach Richard Johnson who has been head coach since the club’s inception, and father-and-son combination Rhett and Keiron Johnson.
Hull’s wheelchair side was established in 2013 by current player-coach Mike Swainger and earlier this year reached the final of the inaugural Challenge Trophy, only to lose to Gravesend Dynamite. Mike’s son Billy is also included in the Hull squad, meaning that each side will field father/son combinations.
Bradford Bulls squad: Jack Hall; James Hall; George Herd; Keiron Johnson; Rhett Johnson; Richard Johnson; James Parkin; Sam Stebbings; Stewart Walker.
Hull squad: Ash Baker; David Gill; Mike Midgley; Tristan Norfolk; Nathan Sherwood; Billy Swainger (Capt.); Mike Swainger.
The match officials for the both finals are Matthew Ball, Steve Abel, Grant Jackson and Lucy Redmond.
RFL director of participation and development, Marc Lovering, says: “It’s been an exceptional year for domestic wheelchair rugby league and we couldn’t have a better venue for such a thrilling finale.
“This year we have seen new teams participating in all competitions; now we have four of the best going head-to-head and I for one can’t predict the outcome of either game. Only one thing is certain – wheelchair rugby league will thrill spectators and armchair Our League viewers alike. It’s an occasion not to be missed.”
Tickets priced £5 adults, £2 children or £12 for a family (two adults and up to four children) are available from Medway Park reception on 01634 336655 or online HERE.