A very happy new year everyone, I hope you all had a great Christmas and that 2018 has started well. We have such an exciting year ahead of us and I am incredibly optimistic that this is going to be a year to really remember! Yesterday I spent the day with GB’s Head Coach Paul Shaw and Team Manager Lee Stutely and we finalised all of our planning for the GB team this year. The success of our fundraising in 2017 means that we are able to invest a little more in support for the team as we seek to take on the best this year starting with the Quad Nations in Leicester in March. If you have not bought tickets for this yet then I suggest you really make the effort to get there and savour the best wheelchair rugby there is. With Australia, USA and Japan we are bringing over the Rio gold, silver and bronze medallists and it does not get much better than that. We also have such an exciting squad and I know that Paul and his coaches are going to have some big decisions to make when it comes to selection. Close behind the Quad nations will be the Japan Para Games in May, another great opportunity for the team as it prepares for the highlight of 2018 – the IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships in Sydney this summer.

Our fundraising efforts will remain a priority in 2018 as we are still a very long way from the target we need to ensure we have a competitive team for the Paralympic Games, assuming we qualify in Sydney. We are already scoping out competition opportunities against the best in the world in 2019 but all of these involve costly travel and competition fees so we need to continually find ways of raising income in the year ahead. On that note I would like to thank Jane Emmerson CEO of Get Kids Going; Jane has been a long-term supporter of ours and has funded many chairs over the years. Following discussions between us she has agreed to help support some of our athletes with training and equipment costs which I am hugely grateful for. My thanks also to Hogan Lovell, another long – standing partner. They provide us with an ever- growing list of support services and each individual lawyer we work with could not be more helpful; but a new reason to thank them is that they have selected Ayaz Bhuta to be one of the recipients of the Hogan Lovell Para-athlete bursary. This is fantastic news and will help Ayaz with his personal preparation and training. Not wishing to embarrass Ayaz but he is an incredible inspiration to so many and his work with Muslim community groups and more recently with young migrants and refugees lifts my spirits and gives me a real sense of pride about the impact that our players and the game can have on individuals and communities.

Our three-year partnership with BT ended in December and I would like to thank them for being an amazing partner. They can feel proud at the major contribution they have made to our development over that period, specifically by supporting us to create a youth programme which the Lord’s Taverners are now going to help us grow further. BT was also the principal partner of the WWRC15 tournament and helped us grow our Super Series and National Championships. A big thank you to Suzi Williams and Suzy Christopher for believing in the power of our sport to make a real difference and thank you so much to BT’s Kim Fitzimmons, Jasmine Holland and Tristan O’Carroll who have made it all happen.

But look at all the other activities we can look forward to this year. The Super Series picks up again at the end of the month with Division 3 battling it out at Fenton Manor, and later in February Division 1 will be in action. At the start of February Wheelchair rugby comes to Hertfordshire with sessions being delivered at Longmead. There will be various community activity going on in Leicester ahead of the Quad Nations tournament in March and we are starting to work with local schools in the area, and in April we plan to have our next Wheelchair Rugby 5’s tournament. Also watch out in the coming days for an announcement on who has made the Talent squad!

Other news worth a mention is that you may already have noticed that we are in the process of a website ‘refresh’. We are doing this in stages so you will see differences in the layout and information gradually appearing over the next few weeks. Our home page is already highlighting the Quad nations and this will be the key message for the start of the year. But the biggest priority for me at the moment is to recruit a new National Development Director. The advert is out there and I am looking for a very special person who can continue the fantastic work that Kirsty has led over the last 5 years. If you know that special person ask them to give me a call to discuss or to just apply! That’s all for now have a happy 2018!

David Pond