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Saints Wheelchair Rugby get their season started this weekend in the Premiership and Division 2 leagues.
Claire Jones / RedHatPhoto.com
Saints Wheelchair Rugby get their season started this weekend in the Premiership and Division 2 leagues.
Claire Jones / RedHatPhoto.com

McCrory and Montgomery ‘chomping at the bit’ for new Wheelchair Rugby season

While the rugby season might be a little while away, two Northampton Saints teams will be in action this weekend – as Saints Wheelchair Rugby get underway in the WR5s Premiership and Division 2 leagues. 

After the team’s most successful season to date – where they lifted their first ever Premiership title, were crowned Midlands Development League champions and picked up a silver medal at the Poland Cup – the new season gets underway in earnest at Stoke Mandeville Stadium this weekend. 

The newly-formed Northampton Wanderers will kick-off the action on Saturday, featuring in their first-ever competition led by skipper Steve Montgomery, before the Saints side takes over the reins on Sunday under the captaincy of Gerry McCrory in the Premiership competition. 

And for Premiership captain McCrory, the challenge of a new season is one he and the side are relishing. 

He said: “We’re raring to go, the whole club’s raring to go. Obviously, the Wanderers get their season underway first on Saturday, and we as the Premiership team will be there to support them. 

“But the Premiership team, we’re chomping at the bit. Our coaches have been training us hard over the last few weeks and months, we’ve put a few new things in place and have had a few new players join us too. 

“The first weekend is always exciting, but you also know you’re going to come away with a lot of learnings and a lot of things to improve on.”

Gerry McCrory, Saints Wheelchair Rugby captain

“But not only will we be trying to improve week on week, so will our opposition. We’re obviously the ones with the target on our backs this year, so we know they’ll be coming at us harder.”

And Wanderers skipper Montgomery – who has been a part of Saints’ Wheelchair Rugby side since its inception – echoed McCrory’s sentiments, insisting his side are raring to go ahead of the new campaign. 

“It’s very exciting,” Montgomery commented. “We’ve got a lot of new players coming together for the first time, that have never played in a tournament before. So, I really want to make sure we’re playing with a smile on our face and enjoying every moment.

“If we do our best, whether we win lose or draw, as long as we’re smiling at the end of the day, I’ll be happy.”

Steve Montgomery, Wanderers Wheelchair Rugby captain

“This is totally new territory for us and it’s a Community programme at the end of the day, there’s a lot of variation in ages and abilities within our group so the first goal is for everyone to enjoy the first weekend of games.” 

This term the two teams will feature in three weekends of matches at matches at Stoke Mandeville Stadium (Aylesbury) and Fenton Manor (Stoke) between June and September – with the Wanderers facing Harlequins, Dragons, Brighton Buccaneers, Norfolk Knights and Taunton Gladiators on Saturdays.

Meanwhile Saints take on Leicester Tigers, Stoke Mandeville Maulers, West Country Hawks and newly-promoted Bournemouth Lions on Sundays. 

For Montgomery and Wanderers that poses completely unknown challenges, and those challenges aren’t something he is taking lightly as the first Wanderers captain. 

 “I’ll be honest, it was a combination of excitement and utter fear when I was first asked to take on the role,” he added. 

“It was obviously an honour to be asked but I’m kind of going into the unknown this season, the whole team are. We’ve only ever played Norfolk before, the other teams will be new opposition for us. 

“But if we do things properly and work together as a team, there’s a very good chance we can come away with some good results.”

On the Premiership campaign McCrory added: “Each side has its own individual threats, of course. Bournemouth coming back up into the Premiership will be exciting, they were actually one of the first sides we played when we started up. 

“We would travel to play them, back when we had no experience. They were one of the top sides then and we would go down to Dorset to play four or five games against them. It’s great to see them back up in the Premiership. 

“But every team that’s in the Premiership has got the right to be there, and everyone commands your respect. You don’t underestimate anyone anyway. It’s all just a big game of chess really, you have to outsmart your opponent on the day. It’ll be a very, very tough competition as always but we’re confident that we belong up there with them.”

But first, attention turns to the Division 2 competition and McCrory is sure that Wanderers will get off to a great start on Saturday. 

“It’s a very exciting time for the Club, growing so quickly,” he said. “That we’ve been able to enter two teams into the leagues this year is brilliant. It’s a new bit of history for us as well.

“They’ve got a really good chance in that league to succeed, they’re a highly competitive group that will go into those games with a lot of energy. 

“I think they might surprise a few people, the other teams need to be wary that the Wanderers are coming and they could definitely be a step above the rest if they apply themselves.”

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