Wheelchair Rugby National League, Melbourne Invitational is kicking off tomorrow Friday the 24th at 10:30am through to Sunday the 26th of February. This will be a battle for supremacy not to be missed as six of the best wheelchair rugby teams in the country go head-to-head.
Disability Sport & Recreation caught up with Andrew Harrison, the captain and coach of the Box Hill Wheelchair Rugby Club, ahead of this weekend’s invitational.
A three-time Paralympian, and two-time gold medallist (at London 2012 and Rio 2016), Andrew is a force to be reckoned with on the court and he is keen to drive his team to victory in this year’s invitational.
Andrew spoke highly of the Melbourne Invitational and the level of players that will be taking part and the level of mateship amongst wheelchair rugby players. However, also made it clear that the levels of competitiveness will still be front and centre.
“This weekend will be a real showcase of the sport of Wheelchair Rugby. We’ve got Australian national squad players spread across all teams and some of the best players in Australia will be playing right here in Melbourne,” he said.
“I love the camaraderie, the mateship and the sense of community that the sport has. Just to see people who’ve overcome a difficult period in their lives, from a spinal cord injury or whatever it may be, to find a sport that they're passionate about and have a sense of belonging to, is really moving.”
“We’re all mates. It’s a pretty tight knit community but as soon as you cross that white line, look out! Even if you’re playing against your mate, it still gets pretty willing.”
While Andrew fancies the chances of his own team, he had plenty of praise for another squad who are looking to take out the crown as well.
“Apart from my team Box Hill, I think University of Queensland are a strong chance, they’re well led by Chris Bond who’s great at what he does. Overall though it’s a pretty tough competition with the teams pretty even so it should be a good contest,” he explained.
While success on the court is important, the growth of wheelchair rugby is something that Harrison has an eye on, and he described the feeling of seeing more people get involved in the sport.
“I’d love to see more juniors get involved in the sport to increase participation pathways moving forward,” he said.
“The sport has absolutely taken off thanks to the exposure its now getting thanks to the performance of the Australian Steelers over the last decade. To see the nationals broadcast on Kayo and Foxtel is amazing, it almost feels like the sport is mainstream now. There used to be just three teams, VIC, QLD & NSW, whereas now you’ve got six strong teams battling it out for three rounds across Australia is really exciting and the competition is at a really high level.”
You can watch the Wheelchair Rugby National League LIVE, starting Friday the 24th of February, on the DSR Facebook page and the My Sport Live app. Stay tuned to our social media for links to the live stream.