I’m always quite excited at the start of a new year – it’s a chance to move on from the things I would like to forget about the year just ended and it’s an opportunity to look forward to the good things planned for the year ahead. There is certainly a lot happening for GBWR in 2019 and I thought I might share the top 8 things I’m excited about as we go into 2019.
1. King Power Quad Nations
1-3 March sees the King Power 2019 Quad Nations return to the Leicester Arena. Following the success of the tournament last year we are building an even bigger event this time which will see GB compete against the newly crowned World Champions Japan, along with Canada and France. The event will be sanctioned by the IWRF for world ranking points which will give GB an opportunity to further improve its world position. I am betting on a Japan v GB final on Sunday 3rd so get your tickets now! Alongside the tournament there will be the first ever GBWR women’s game played in the main arena. There will be two squads of 6-8 athletes selected from the club membership to play in an exhibition match. We want to the raise awareness that wheelchair rugby is accessible to women and girls who participate as equals in mixed teams. The match will build on our women and girls community work taking place as part of the #ThisGirlCan campaign.
2. Roma Sport National Championships
6-7 April is the date for this year’s Roma Sport National Championships, also to be held in the Leicester Arena. The standard of play in the Nationals goes up every year and the tournament provides a unique opportunity to bring the wheelchair rugby community together. Last year saw Crash take the Cup in a thrilling match with Leicester Tigers, and with home advantage this year I am betting on Tigers reaching the final again. The Shield competition will be close with Yorkshire Lions pushing to hold on to the title they won in 2018.
3. Churchill/GBWR Clay Pigeon Shoot
10 April will see E.J. Churchill and champion clay pigeon shot George Digweed MBE host a shoot at Sir Edward Dashwood’s beautiful West Wycombe Estate to raise funds for GBWR. George has won 26 world titles, 19 European titles and 12 world cups. GBWR is incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to raise funds and we are looking forward to an amazing day!
4. London Marathon
28 April is the date of this year’s London Marathon and Ben Crane who owns the iconic Cliff Top Café in Whitsand Bay, Cornwall will be running on behalf of GBWR. This is the first time we have had a dedicated charity place so I am hoping we can all get behind Ben and encourage him by helping to raise funds.
5. Lord Taverner’s Junior National Championships
On 29 June we will hold the Junior National Championships at Stoke Mandeville. Ospreys won the first championships last year but with an ever increasing number of junior teams, this event is set to grow and competition for the cup will be fierce.
6. IWRF European Championships
GB will defend its European title at the championships to be held in Denmark between 3-12 August. The tournament is also a qualifier for the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020 and GB is keen to nail qualification at the first opportunity. Those of you who have seen a copy of the 2019 Guinness Book of Records will see that GB holds the record for winning the most European titles so we will be keen to widen the gap between us and the rest of Europe even more.
7. World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge
This is the tournament GB created in 2015 to sit alongside the Rugby World Cup and we are really pleased that Japan has picked it up and will host the second tournament in Tokyo between 14-20 October during the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It will be a fantastic opportunity for GB to play the top teams in the world a year out from the Paralympic Games and it will be exciting to be in Japan around one of the top three sporting events in the world.
8. First GBWR Awards
At long last 2019 will see us kick off the GBWR Awards process and I am looking forward to seeing who will be first to be properly recognised for their outstanding contribution to our sport and to see who are the first to enter the Hall of Fame.