It was good to see some of you at the AGM in Leicester and I know that Trustees appreciated the opportunity to talk to members and staff. Thank you also to those who submitted proxy votes. I remember my time as a rugby player and how AGMs never really interested me; all I wanted to do was to play and I am sure many of you are the same. But the AGM is an important part of any Membership organisation as it provides an opportunity for members’ views to be heard and to hold the Board and executive team to account – in short to make sure they are doing what members want and to ensure the organisation’s governance and finances are in good shape. Having said that, if you have a point you wish to make there is no need to wait until an AGM – I am always happy to receive emails or a call if you have something on your mind that you wish to talk through. Likewise I know that Julie, Paul and the RDOs will always try to deal with questions, and that the DMG meets regularly as the forum for broader discussion. For those of you who were unable to make the AGM the slides used during the meeting will be uploaded on the website.

With the international season packed away until next Spring the focus now turns to domestic competition and the delivery of our various programmes. I start with the first WR5s summer league which came to an end on 2 September after a 3 tournament series. Overall an average of 75 participants took part each weekend, with over half new to wheelchair rugby and not eligible for the Paralympic discipline. We have also seen 21 people join clubs as full members and we have attracted more female players into the game. Leicester Tigers, Stoke Mandeville Maulers, Ospreys, Woodbridge, Norfolk Knights, Dorset Destroyers, Solent Sharks, Hawks, Brighton and Northampton Saints all entered teams in this year’s competition and there is interest from other clubs in joining next year. Whilst the Paralympic discipline of our sport will always be at the core of the NGB, the new discipline is helping to bring wheelchair rugby to a whole new group of individuals, many of whom in a sporting sense were previously inactive. It is also bringing other benefits to clubs where increased membership is helping to pay the bills and where new participants for the Paralympic discipline are also being found. Having recently been at the IWRF General Assembly I know through talking with members from other countries that many have plans to follow our lead.

Division 3 opened this season’s Super Series last weekend and in the first match it was a win for Stoke Mandeville Maulers over the Hammerheads. Led by the veteran GB athlete Bob O’Shea, the Maulers kept cool heads to open up a gap in extra time and win by 35-31. The opening game on Sunday morning was equally close with Woodbridge v Brighton – pretty head to head until the last few minutes when Brighton had a few turnovers and took the win 31-27. At the end of the first weekend Maulers top the league with 15 points, with Hammerheads close behind on 11 points, Brighton in third place with 9 and Woodbridge in 4th position with 5. Congratulations to those who won the player awards:

0.5/1.0 – Peter Wells – Hammerheads
1.5/2.0 – Matt Ball – Woodbridge
2.5/3.0 – Dan Pelling – Brighton
3.5/4.0 – James Fenwick – Maulers
MVP – Vince Barton – Hammerheads

Division 2’s first weekend of the season tips off on 13 October and Division 1 the following weekend.

There is a huge amount of development activity planned over the next few weeks with Bolton, Manchester, Norfolk, and Aldershot all in our sights. There is also plenty of youth activity happening with the Lord’s Taverners Junior Wheelchair Rugby Programme being rolled out in Wales with a six week schools’ based programme which aims to identify and develop players from across Gwent for the newly established Dragons club. Planning is also under way for a Welsh Junior Tournament in November which will take place at the Llandarcy Academy of Sport.

The next few weeks will also see a lot of work being put into training for volunteers, coaches and officials. The roll out of the new ‘Introduction to Officiating’ aims to encourage and support those who have an interest in becoming officials. It is important that we grow these numbers to match the growth we have seen in players. The pilot Activators course will be delivered at the end of this month. This course is a basic introduction to coaching for those coming into it for the first time, or who want to better prepare themselves for the Level 2 course. We will also be running Level 2 in September and October with another course also being run in Wales at the end of the year. With the completion of these courses we should have around 50 people who have qualified as Level 2 coaches which is an incredible achievement and will further support club and individual development.

I will leave it there for now – enjoy all that’s happening this autumn.

David Pond