It was a grey, wet bank holiday weekend in Cornwall so I hope it was brighter where you were! I did get to the skate park with my 8 year old son – which is almost as dangerous for me as getting in a chair and trying to play rugby, but at least it was warmer than his surfing classes which start next weekend! It was a good bank holiday though and I enjoyed watching a fantastic performance from Exeter Chiefs who demolished Saints 36-12, with Cornishman Jack Nowell having the most amazing game. Our Chairman tells me that Quins were on fire as well and that our ambassador Mike Brown had one of his best games. And then there was the fight – Anthony Joshua’s defeat of Klitschko – just fantastic and how refreshing to see the mutual respect between two extraordinary men.
As I write this the GB squad will be arriving in Lilleshall for a week’s training camp. Head Coach Paul Shaw will be pleased to get the full squad together again now that Jonny Coggan and Jim Roberts have returned from playing in the USA. Congratulations to Jim whose team won the USA National Championships. Our own BT Nationals are now only two weeks away so good luck to all the teams in training. The draw has been made and the competition starts in Leicester at 0900 on Saturday 13th with Bulls v Ospreys and Crusaders v Gloucester.
This is an important week for us. We are interviewing for new posts – the first ever GBWR Fundraiser and a new Membership Secretary – both hugely important positions and so we are hoping to recruit from a strong list of candidates. Kirsty and I are also in Wales on Wednesday. I have meetings with our chair partner and National Championship sponsor Roma Sports before then meeting up with Welsh rugby legend Rupert Moon to discuss support for the continued development of wheelchair rugby in Wales. Rupert is also a Trustee of the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust who has supported the game in Wales since 2014 and we are hopeful that this might continue. Ospreys had a good fundraising day at the weekend raising over £1000 for the club – a great example for everyone as we all seek new ways to raise income to support our sport. I am constantly reminded and humbled by people’s generosity. There are so many incredible causes out there which are worthy of funding and most people are stretched by the cost of their day to day living and so to donate to our cause or anyone else’s for that matter is often a real sacrifice. As I write this our JustGiving campaign has slowed down a bit. We are now up to £23.5 k which is a fantastic sum and I am hugely grateful to those who have already donated but we still need to keep the pressure on to raise more. Thank you to those who are still fundraising. This weekend Jo Pendered joined us having run the London marathon for another charity, reached her target and then asked for any new sponsors to support GBWR – how amazing is that? And what about the Under 8s Preston Grasshoppers Rugby team? They had a collection for the GB team and raised over £100! These are just two of the incredible efforts people are going to in order to support our team. If you go onto the JustGiving page you can still support Jo and you will also see other fundraising initiatives that you can support – no amount is too small – Gary Thomas has a link and he is doing a 12 hour mountain bike race with us as the beneficiaries – he has reached 47% of his target so I am sure he would appreciate a bit of help to hit his target.
You will have seen the announcement welcoming LMAX Exchange as a new partner. They are the first of what I hope will be a number of new sponsors who will help us reach that Tokyo goal. There is a great deal of support out there for our sport but it remains a challenge to translate that into the funding we need to meet the costs of a national team so I am especially grateful to LMAX Exchange for leading the way and hope others will follow.
I mentioned in my last blog that we were about to hold the first tournament to trial our variant version of the game. This turned out to be an enormous success and attracted a wide range of people wanting to play ranging from those completely new to wheelchair rugby, to those who had played as part of Invictus and others who have supported the classifiable version but who were not eligible to play it themselves. We also had six female players, including a mum who was playing in the same line as her son! There is still a way to go yet before we finalise the version, agree a name for it and then roll it out across the country but this was a great start and a big thank you to Luke White who has led the development of the game and to Paul Jenkins and Bob O’Shea who coached the sessions. Meanwhile we continue to search for new talent for the classifiable game and last week we again supported the annual Spinal Injury Games at Stoke Mandeville. Bob O’Shea was again in the fray who along with Ian Hoskings and the GBWR staff, introduced wheelchair rugby to around 40 individuals including at least 10 who would be classifiable. The games remain a great opportunity for those who have recently incurred injuries to experience the sport and more importantly to be introduced to the wheelchair rugby community. Finally we welcome Dale Thompson who joins us as RDO (North). I am sure the clubs will be pleased to see that we now have a permanent RDO in place, not to detract from the amazing job that Simon Starr has done in the interim.
That’s all for this week, think of me on Sunday freezing in that Cornish surf!