On Saturday Sevenoaks 1st XV got the better of their N Kent friends, Gravesend, chalking up a 26-9 win at the Paddock. This home win puts Oaks in 6th place in the London 1 South, but the weekend was notable for other reasons. Club member Roger Alwen, who was on the 2012 Olympic Advisory Board, and former RFU President Robert Horner, also an Oaks member, had brought to the club’s attention the plight of GB Wheelchair Rugby, which lost all of its UK Sport funding last December. Together, with President Mike Woodridge and Oaks’ members Chris Birch, Andy Nicholls and Steve Fitzmaurice they decided that Sevenoaks would take the lead and put together a weekend of fundraising activities to support GBWR on the road to Tokyo.
And what a weekend it turned out to be! The club was packed for a lunchtime event where GBWR Chief Executive, David Pond talked about how the Oaks were at the forefront of the rugby community in supporting GBWR towards its goal of getting the team to the Paralympic Games in 2020. He was followed by GB Captain Chris Ryan, who spoke movingly about his journey from being one of the most talented young golfers in the country to suffering paralysis after a car accident, which changed his life but brought him to wheelchair rugby where he is now the proud Captain of GB, which won the European Championships in the summer.
The glorious weather on Sunday was just perfect to showcase wheelchair rugby. The club had laid a wooden floor on the pitch in front of the clubhouse and GB players Chris Ryan, Johnny Coggan, and Ollie Mangion, supported by Team Manager Lee Stutely and Head of Youth Stuart McLindon introduced wheelchair rugby to each of the junior teams in turn. It was a hugely popular activity with all the players wanting to get into a chair and crash into their opponents. The GB athletes also answered questions on the sport and on their own journeys. It was an amazing occasion and provided a unique opportunity for the juniors to become aware that being disabled does not have to mean that you cannot still strive to be the very best at something and that with the right mindset it is possible to overcome the most challenging of circumstances.
The total of all the various fundraising initiatives resulted in £7500 being raised. David Pond commented: “The Oaks could not have done more to make us feel part of their club this weekend. I am hugely grateful to everyone who has contributed towards this amazing sum, which will be used to fund two training camps in 2018 as part of our preparation for the World Championships. It was fantastic to see the fun the juniors had playing the game on Sunday and the way they questioned and listened to the GB players – this is community rugby at its very best.”
To donate and get the GB Wheelchair Rugby team to the Paralympics in Tokyo, please visit gbwr.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get you club involved.