After a long break from competitive action, Saints Wheelchair Rugby returned to the court in style last month – and coach Jamie Higgins believes the side are well set for another season of success and improvement in 2021/22.
Skipper Gerry Mac and his Saints outfit impressed at the ‘Big Rugby Return’ on Saturday 14 August as Stoke Mandeville Stadium hosted a midlands wheelchair rugby festival.
Northampton locked horns with Stoke Mandeville Maulers, Coventry Wheelchair Rugby and an All Stars mixed team, and after finishing second overall on the day, Higgins is already looking forward to Saints’ next outing in a fortnight.
“It was fantastic to see everyone back together again on the court, after a long time without matches,” he said.
“We have been back training for a few months where Covid-19 guidelines have allowed, but there were long breaks where we could not even do that, and those were difficult periods for everyone involved with the team.
Great day today for our Saints WCR team at the @GBWR Big Rugby return festival.— Saints Community (@SaintsComm) August 14, 2021
Some convincing wins but pipped at the post to take 2nd in the final against Stoke Mandeville Maulers.
Now to evaluate before the start of next month's 5s league.
Pictures ©️ @redhatphoto pic.twitter.com/qzYKdlW3HM
“We got some convincing wins under our belts in Stoke Mandeville, but also came away with a few areas to work on, so we’re in great shape to make a strong return to the WR5s league.
“Our first WR5s fixtures are back at Stoke Mandeville on the weekend of 25/26 September. Watching the GB side win gold at the Paralympics was a huge inspiration for everyone involved in the sport, so we can’t wait to get back into competitive matches for the first time since the pandemic hit.”
Despite the lack of matches, Saints Wheelchair Rugby was given a huge boost during the pandemic. A successful funding bid to the Toyota Parasport Fund and a commitment from Northamptonshire Sport has allowed the programme to expand its youth ranks – with a new Junior Satellite Club launching in Corby next week.
The Toyota Parasport Fund was launched in November 2019 by Sport England, Toyota GB & the British Paralympic Association, and provides equipment aimed at helping disabled people to become more active in England. In total the fund has distributed £391,000 to activity providers throughout the UK to spend on equipment and training.
And as one of 93 successful applicants to the fund, Saints Wheelchair Rugby will become the first side in the UK to set up a Satellite Club to reach to more junior players within the community who may not be able to access current training sessions.
Sessions for the new Junior Satellite Club will begin on Tuesday 14 September at Maplefields Academy. The sessions come at no initial cost to participants, all equipment necessary will be provided and training will follow all of GBWR’s return-to-play protocols.
Higgins added: “As well as targeting a successful season on the court, we are firmly focused on developing the reach of our community programme.
“So, we’re immensely grateful to the Toyota Parasport Fund, Sport England, Northamptonshire Sport and Maplefields Academy for allowing us to get this new Satellite Club off the ground.Jamie Higgins, Saints Wheelchair Rugby coach
“You don't need any prior experience of wheelchair rugby to get involved in any of our sessions – adult or youth – and we would encourage anyone interested to come along and give it a go!”
If you have a disability and want to play for Saints Wheelchair Rugby (adult or junior), if you want to volunteer in any way, or if you are interested in sponsoring the team, please contact [email protected]. If you would like to know more about Saints Wheelchair Rugby’s wider programme, please CLICK HERE.
To register your attendance at the first Satellite Club session in Corby on Tuesday 14 September, please email [email protected].