WRL Wheelchair Invitational League kicks off in Cardiff on Sunday

The inaugural Wales Rugby League Wheelchair Invitational League kicks off this Sunday with a mouth-watering couple of fixtures at the Cardiff City House of Sport, starting at noon.

First up, newcomers Cardiff Blue Dragons have a baptism of fire against the experienced North Wales Crusaders in what will be the hosts’ first ever game. Argonauts of Kent then face Hereford Harriers at 2pm. The fifth side for the 2023 season is Torfaen Tigers.

However as the ethos around this new league is for the growth and development of the sport, only one elite player per side is allowed to be on the pitch at any one time – an elite player is one who plays in any competition at Wheelchair Super League level or is part of a wheelchair international side’s training squad. The emphasis here is wheelchair as some members of the Wales Physical Disability RL squad may also give this version of the game a try.

Already, nearly 70 people have signed up to play, with more expected this week. As per international rules, the ratio must be a maximum of two able-bodied players on pitch at any time.

Players of any age, ability and who recognise as any gender, are welcome to play as Wheelchair RL is the most inclusive sport in the world. The opening match of the tournament could see the oldest registered player in John James Doyle, who will turn 70 between Crusaders’ third and final games, face up against the youngest in eight-year-old Charlie Puddick.

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 Welsh sides 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: “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.

“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)