The fixtures for the inaugural Wales Rugby League Wheelchair Invitational League have been announced, with the first matches to be held in the Welsh capital at Cardiff City House of Sport on Saturday 6 August.
The ethos around this new league is for the growth and development of the sport, not only in Wales, but also including teams from England who wish to participate.
Wales are defending their Celtic Cup title in Edinburgh this weekend, a trophy they’ve won six times in a row with a one hundred percent win record, but not all of the World Cup stars will participate in the league. The emphasis is on development, so no side may have more than one elite player on the pitch at any one time – an elite player is one who plays in any competition at Super League level or is part of an international training squad.
Wheelchair Rugby League is a five-a-side game, with this league having unlimited substitutes. Already, nearly 50 people have signed up to play, with more expected before the season launches. As per international rules, the ratio must be a maximum of two able-bodied players on pitch at any time.
Five sides will contest the 2023 season. Joining established sides North Wales Crusaders and Torfaen Tigers, will be newcomers Cardiff Blue Dragons and two from over the border – Hereford Harriers A and Argonauts from Kent.
The league will consist of five rounds with each team hosting a round of double-header matches, each played at the full 80 minutes, with one side receiving a bye in each round. The top two teams will compete in a Grand Final at a Welsh venue, whilst the two two Welsh side will also compete in a further fixture for the Cymru Cadair Olwyn Cwpan Sialans (Wales Wheelchair Challenge Cup) also to be held in a Welsh venue.
Stephen Jones, the head of Wheelchair RL Development in Wales, said: “With three teams now established in Wales, we thought it was about time we had our own league to help us develop our sport.
“There was a lot of discussion with the teams and thanks to a massive amount of support from our board, we were finally in a position where we could make this dream a reality.
“Once word started circulating, a couple of England-based teams asked if they could put a development team into the league as well, so with five teams now playing it’s full steam ahead. The plan this year is small tournaments that will see league and cup winners crowned towards the end of the year.
“What we are looking to do is inspire other Welsh clubs to set up wheelchair teams and grow our sport in Wales, which will then not only give more people the opportunity to play or volunteer but to also grow the talent pool giving us more choices for the international team in years to come.”
The fixtures are as follows:
Round 1 – Sunday, August 6 (Cardiff City House of Sport)
Cardiff Blue Dragons v North Wales Crusaders (noon)
Argonauts v Hereford Harriers (2pm)
Round 2 – Sunday, August 20 (Crook Log Sports Centre, London)
Argonauts v Cardiff Blue Dragons (12:45pm)
Hereford Harriers v Torfaen Tigers (2:45pm)
Round 3 – Saturday, September 2 (Cwmbran Stadium Arena)
Torfaen Tigers v Cardiff Blue Dragons (11:15am)
North Wales Crusaders v Argonauts (1:15pm)
Round 4 – Saturday, September 16 (Leominster Leisure Centre)
Hereford Harriers v North Wales Crusaders (noon)
Argonauts v Torfaen Tigers (2pm)
Round 5 – Sunday 1 October (Glyndwr University, Wrexham)
North Wales Crusaders v Torfaen Tigers (12:15pm)
Cardiff Blue Dragons v Hereford Harriers (2:15pm)
Final – October 14/15 (venue TBC)
Downloadable fixture graphics, designed by Sterling Designs.