top of page

2023 Wheelchair Rugby National League Recap - Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane

Season 2023 of the action-packed Wheelchair Rugby National League (WRNL) has drawn to a close, running from Friday, 24 February, to Wednesday, 24 April.

Rugby action shot from Round 2
Credit -Joep Buijs Photography [Image ID: a Melbourne Unicorns player and a Box Hill player are contesting each other by reaching out to the ball on their left. A Melbourne Unicorn teammate is in the bottom left of the photo looking at the ball and there is a Box Hill teammate on the right of the contest.]

The competition saw six wheelchair rugby teams from around Australia in attendance, competing for the coveted trophy. The league ran over three rounds. The first round was held in Melbourne from February 24 -26 and is known as the "Melbourne Invitational".

In round one, the 2022 winners, the University of Queensland 'Red Heavies', finished the round in first place, going undefeated in their five matches.

Two teams from Victoria competed in the league; The Melbourne ‘Unicorns’ finished strong in second place, winning four games and losing one game to the top team.

The Box Hill ‘Broncos’ produced some solid performances, but unfortunately were dealt several tough losses. They finished the round in fifth place.

Box Hill player with the ball in their lap
Credit - Nerissa Byrne Photography. [Image ID: Box Hill Captain Andrew Harrison has the ball in their lap and their hands are turning the wheels of the wheelchair moving towards the left]

The second round, also known as the "Brisbane Bash", was hosted in Brisbane running from 31 March – 2 April.

Melbourne Unicorns picked up 16 points, winning against Melbourne-based Box Hill 29 to 62, Sydney University 44 to 53, and Tuggeranong 'Vikings' 37 to 59. The Unicorns just came short against both Queensland Teams, narrowing losing to the University of Queensland 55 to 41 and Bond University 'Bull Sharks' 43 to 56.

Jayden Warn was a standout for Melbourne Unicorns, with Robyn Lambird and James McQuillan receiving individual accolades for their performances throughout the Bash.

Box Hill collected 12 points in Brisbane, their sole win against Tuggeranong in a close affair 39 to 44. Ben Fawcett took the reins as player/coach for Box Hill over the weekend in the absence of Andrew Harrison. Blake Cochrane was a welcome inclusion for Box Hill on Saturday and Sunday, combining well on the court with Shae Graham.

At the end of round two, The University of Queensland remained on top, comprehensively continuing their undefeated record.

Melbourne Unicorns held second place at the end of the round, sharing their place on the ladder with Bond University.

Box Hill went from strength to strength, sharing the fourth spot on the ladder with the Tuggeranong 'Vikings' and Sydney University.

Credit - Joep Buijs Photography [Image 1 (left) ID: a Box Hill player has the ball in their hands looking to pass, as two Melbourne Unicorns players are on their left and right side, trying to block.]

Credit - Joep Buijs Photography [Image 2 (right) ID: a Melbourne Unicorns player is looking at the ball in the air in front of them, looking to control it, as a Box Hill player on his right is looking on. There is a Melbourne Unicorns player in the distance on the left]

The third and final round occurred in Sydney from April 22 - 24, dubbed the "Sydney Slam".

Both Melbourne teams had close matches against tough opponents in the final round.

In one of the tightest matches of the League, Sydney University and Melbourne Unicorns went blow for blow, with the Unicorns pulling away by only 2 points, the final score being 48 to 50. A similar story occurred against Bond University, with the unicorns getting revenge last round defeating the Bullsharks 52 to 48.

The Melbourne Unicorns vs Box Hill battle lived up to the occasion, with neither side giving up. Just 2 points were the separation for an upset win for Box Hill, winning against the Unicorns 46 to 48.

Box Hill was within 4 points of Bond University but unfortunately fell short 44 to 48. However, on the eve of the round, the Captain of the University of Queensland team, Chris Bond, was medically stood down from playing all but one match. This opened the door for Box Hill to pull off a miraculous win against the reigning champions 45 to 33, the highlight of their performance in the 2023 league.

However, it wasn't enough to knock the University of Queensland off the top spot, as they claimed back-to-back championship wins despite being level on points with fellow

Queensland team Bond University.

In the other matches, the Unicorns defeated the Tuggeranong Vikings 53 to 41 and lost to the eventual winners' University of Queensland, 40 to 49.

Box Hill also defeated the Vikings 39 to 54 and won against Sydney University 44 to 52.

Melbourne University finished just 4 points away from top spot and finished the season in an admirable third place. Box Hill finished in fourth place, and Sydney University finished ahead of Tuggeranong, who holds the ladder in sixth place.

Box Hill's Jake Howe was named the best Low-Point player of the tournament, and Melbourne Unicorns's Jayden Warn was named the 2023 Wheelchair Rugby National League MVP.

Credit - Serge Gonzalez [Image 1 (left) ID: a Melbourne Unicorn player has the ball in their lap, holding onto it to protect it from the Box Hill player on the right.]

Credit - Serge Gonzalez [Image 2 (right) ID: a Box Hill player has the ball in their hand whilst their arm is in the air looking to throw it. A Bond University and a Box Hill teammate have their backs to the image and are facing towards the thrower on the left. On the right is another Bond University player facing towards the image]

2023 Wheelchair Rugby National League - All Star Four

Best Low-Point Player: Jake Howe, Box Hill

Best Mid-Point Player: Andrew Edmondson, Sydney University

Best High-Point Player: Brayden Foxley – Conolly, Bond University

2023 Wheelchair Rugby National League MVP: Jayden Warn, Melbourne Unicorns

A group of people, mostly in wheelchairs smiling at the camera holding medals
Photo credit - Serge Gonzalez [Image ID: (Left to Rright) Jake Howe (Box Hill), Chris Bond (UQ), Jayden Warn (Melbourne), Brayden Foxley-Conolly (Bond Uni) and Andrew Edmondson (Sydney University) are holding their medals and smiling towards the camera]

Additional Awards

2023 Coach of the Wheelchair Rugby National League: Chris Bond, UQ

2023 Wheelchair Rugby National League Runners' Up: Bond University

2023 Wheelchair Rugby National League Champions: University of Queensland

Click here to see the overall ladder and individual matches:

This all wouldn't be possible without our wonderful supporters Protect, Victorian Government and Rugby Victoria.


bottom of page