In my last blog I spoke about how we were powering towards the end of the year, well the pace hasn’t slackened and we have had some fantastic activity over the last couple of weeks. The Lloyd’s of London fundraiser for the GB squad was a huge success and raised around £195k which is incredible and will allow us to prepare against the best in the world ahead of the World Championships in Sydney next August. This will start with the Wheelchair Rugby Quad Nations which I mentioned in my last blog. Since then the competing teams have been confirmed as Australia, USA and Japan – the 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the world so we can’t get much better competition than that! I’m really excited that we are going to bring this tournament to Leicester under our own steam. It shows that we are moving on as a credible spectator sport, a sport which people want to see and to enjoy. We will be doing all we can to maximise the experience for those who come and we are keen to make it a real family event. There is an early opportunity for Members to purchase tickets ahead of the crowd so make sure you are first in the queue as the venue only seats just over 2000.

Back to Lloyd’s – it was an amazing experience and the generosity of the insurance industry was humbling. Our athletes played the Lloyds of London Rugby team with both teams as competitive as you would expect! Equally humbling was the presentation of a cheque for £3000 which the rugby players had contributed amongst themselves – thank you! A big thanks also to Lloyd’s CEO Inga Beale for supporting the event and to her team who under the leadership of Denise Cunningham, worked hard to turn a bit of Lloyd’s into an event venue. Thank you also to our board members who also attended and did a great job in helping to host guests and potential sponsors. We were also pleased that UK Sport Chair Dame Kathryn Grainger attended and was able to experience a little of our incredible sport and athletes.

LONDON - UK - 23rd Nov- 2017. A fundraising reception for the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby team hosted by Lloyd's at their headquarters in London. Photo by Ian Jones for Lloyd's

The Super Series 2 Division 1 took place at Leicester Arena the weekend of 25th-26th November and continues to impress with the high level of competition. Leicester Tigers WRC are currently holding top spot and so with a successful Premiership Rugby team and the Quad Nations all in Leicester, the city must be able to claim it’s the rugby capital of the UK! Along with the familiar, there were some new faces amongst the Best in Class Awards over the weekend and congratulations to all award winners:

0.5/1.0- Harry Langley (Canterbury Hellfire)
1.5- David Barber (Canterbury Hellfire)
2.0- Chris Ryan (London Storm)
2.5- Jamie Stead (Leicester Tigers)
3.0/3.5/4.0- Aaron Phipps (Team Solent Sharks)
MVP- Alan Dineen (Gaelic Warriors)

Both the Lloyd’s of London and the Super Series weekend also allowed us to show our support for the Stonewall #RainbowLaces campaign. We have always prided ourselves on being inclusive but this was a very visible way to promote just what an inclusive sport wheelchair rugby is. The important thing is that we show this level of support for the right reasons and not just to be one of the crowd. That means living our values and making our clubs, teams and delivery programmes friendly and attractive places for everyone – the essence of our strategy to create wheelchair rugby communities.

LONDON - UK - 23rd Nov- 2017. A fundraising reception for the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby team hosted by Lloyd's at their headquarters in London. Photo by Ian Jones for Lloyd's

As you know, one of our key business objectives this year is to continue to develop our workforce so that we have fully qualified individuals delivering all parts of our sport. We started this with our accredited coach course and we are now moving into the area of officials. Our Workforce Development Officer has just opened applications for our new educator training. We intend to appoint a team of educators who will be responsible for training our new officials. This is an important development towards the creation of a professional cadre of officials and we look forward to the programme roll out in the new year.

Looking ahead and one of the most important developments of the sport ever will launch on 10 December when Wheelchair Rugby 5s will have its first airing in a tournament. This new version of the game which we have been calling ‘the variant’ has been in gestation for at least 2 years now and following lots of trials, consultations and pilots, and the documentation of rules and classification criteria, we are ready to roll. I am sure there will be further development of the game in the future, just as the international version of wheelchair rugby has evolved over time to something which is quite different to that which Duncan Campbell and his mates started. But the important thing now is to get this formally out there and for clubs to have an opportunity to grow their membership by offering a different version of the game which those with greater functionality can enjoy. It’s another sign of our commitment to being an inclusive sport and another way to help build the rich wheelchair rugby communities which we are all committed to. A big thank you to all of those who have put in so much work into getting Rugby 5s off the ground.

Finally, for this week a word about Gloucester. Many of you will have seen that we were at the Premiership game between Gloucester and London Irish at the weekend. My thanks to the club and especially its owner Martin St Quinton for hosting us and for giving us an opportunity to work with our local club Gloucester Wheelchair Rugby to raise funds. Thank you to the many volunteers who worked the crowd with their buckets and collected over £2.5k to be shared between the local club and the GB team. It was good for us to do something together and many thanks to David Durston who I joined at half time on the pitch to take questions. It would be great if we could try to get similar things happening at other Premiership clubs and we will be looking for future opportunities.

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And finally….finally…..those of you who followed my racing tip in my last blog will have won a few shillings on our shared horse Rothman. The little darling was just pipped to the post in a photo finish but still managed to win just under £1000 for the GB Road to Tokyo appeal. I am sure anyone with winnings will want to share them with our campaign! in the same way as the lovely Kate Digweed, owner of Rothman, is giving us all of her winnings! The downside of all of this publicity is that the poor horse is going to have to cope with an increased handicap but I am confident she just wants to run for us!

Good luck with the Christmas preparations – with 9 year old twins and an 8 week old cocker spaniel puppy it’s already crazy in our house so being away and busy with the sport has its advantages!!

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David Pond