As teams look ahead to next weekend and the Roma National Championships we can look forward to a more open competition than we have seen for a few years. Leicester Tigers will be hoping to secure their first cup win having just topped Division 1 of the Super Series and will want to bring to an end the enviable record of Storm who have been in the Cup final for the last 4 years and won in both 2016 and 2017. Crash are also looking strong and will want to go one better than their runner-up placing last year. A combined Crash and Burn team has just returned from winning the Egmont Open tournament in Denmark where they met London Wheelchair Rugby Club in the final. This was a great event and even more so to see two GB teams battle it out in the final having got there by defeating Qufora, Russia, Holland, and Austria. It is also really good news to see this sort of club competition in Europe. It also looks a pretty open competition for the Shield with perhaps Burn edging ahead as the favourites having just won Division 2 of the Super Series. Hawks are also looking strong and will want to make a mark on the tournament. Games start at 0900 at Medway Park in Kent and I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone on Saturday.

You will have seen from the website that Richard Allcroft is standing as a candidate to replace John Bishop as President of the IWRF. John has been a great President and is standing down after eight years in the post. GBWR is strongly supporting Richard’s nomination and is behind his manifesto which looks to the future of the game. Richard is well known to most in the game across the world and so we hope that he will receive the support of many nations when it comes to the vote at the IWRF General Assembly which takes place in Sydney after the World Championships in August. Richard is hugely experienced across many fronts including holding significant positions at key international events including the Paralympic Games, his Board membership of the IWRF and GBWR, and his significant role in the development of GBWR as a professional National Governing Body. If he gets elected then I think we should all be excited about the future of our sport which still has so much potential to be realised.

Much of my time is still given over to fundraising and I would like to thank all of those who may be reading this and who have come on board as sponsors and partners. We still have some way to go before we can be confident that we have sufficient funds to get our GB team to the games in Tokyo. As we all know, it is not just about getting our athletes there in a physical sense, it is about ensuring we can provide a performance and competition programme leading up to the games which prepares GB to take on the best and have a realistic chance of gaining that podium place. This means raising the money to provide the team the opportunity to take on the best in the world over the next two years. The programme this year is a strong one and GB athletes will leave their clubs at the end of the National Championships next week and come together at Lilleshall for the first training camp after the Quad Nations, to prepare for the Japan Para Games in May.

But fundraising is not just about the GB team. Although for obvious reasons the team remain a priority, we still have to raise other income in order to fund our other work. In that regard I am hugely grateful to Roma Sport who continue to fund the National Championships and to provide support to meet a number of our requirements as well as providing GBWR with discounted chairs. My blog also gives me the chance to say a big thank you to our ambassador Mike Brown who has again donated over £2000 from the sale of his kit. Thanks Mike!

Finally, our new Wheelchair Rugby 5s summer league starts on 5 May which marks a new chapter in the development of our sport and is a big step forward towards our aim of providing wheelchair rugby for more disabled people. There has been some great feedback from Members following the 5s launch tournament and this has helped us review and shape the development of the game. In reality no game stays still – sport evolves – and as I think back to my own time as a rugby player, the game today is very different than the one I played and that is also true of the Paralympic wheelchair rugby game, as I am sure the likes of Bob O’Shea and Rob Tarr will testify (!), so I think it will take a while before the new 5s format settles. What is hugely encouraging is that we have 62 players registered for the 5s summer league of which 45 are not classifiable for the Paralympic version and so we are providing a whole new bunch of people with an exciting sporting opportunity and the chance to belong to our wheelchair rugby community – that has to be good news!

David Pond