Help for Heroes has launched its new national Sports Series with a Wheelchair Rugby competition in Plymouth.
The first competition took place in Devonport Naval Base which is home to Help for Heroes’ Recovery Centre. Twenty-one competitors from across the country played for points in four mixed ability teams. It was a tough contest with everyone giving it their all over 10 matches. There’s a reason Wheelchair Rugby is known as murderball!
Over the two days, 220 minutes of rugby was played and 88 points were earned for the regions.
The Sports Series will see competitions taking place across the country in nine different sports, with wounded, injured and sick veterans and serving personnel playing for points for their recovery regions. At the end of the series, the region with the most points – North, East, South, West or Wales – will be declared champions.
Army veteran Nick Thomas served in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, having joined up as a boy in 1991. Just six years later, after tours of Northern Ireland and Bosnia, he was medically discharged due to an arm injury he sustained in service.
Nick benefits massively from playing sport and is part of the Endeavour Hawks Wheelchair Rugby team, formed at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre Plymouth.
Nick said: “The Sports Series has been great, really well organised. It’s been so inclusive and brought all abilities together. The beginners have been able to play rugby with the more experienced players. The support staff have been excellent and the team bonding and socialising has been great.
“Sport allows you to get that competitive edge again and take some personal ownership and regain some self-worth. You can play as a team with likeminded people who are as disciplined as you because you come from a similar background. It gives you a sense of belonging.”
Andy McEvoy from Bournemouth was medically discharged in 2013 with multiple injuries to his lower limbs, knees, hips and shoulders as a result of a series of accidents plus wear and tear. He played Wheelchair Rugby for the first time at an Invictus Games Team UK training camp in August and enjoyed it so much that he has since joined Bournemouth Lions Wheelchair Rugby.
Andy said: “When you’re playing Wheelchair Rugby it’s a release, just being part of a team again with like-minded individuals. Playing is a buzz ordinarily but when you’re with military guys it’s a different kettle of fish. They’ve got the same outlook. The same mentality and drive. We’re more stubborn and we just get on and deal with our injuries. After I left Service I got a job with a civilian company but I didn’t get on. I didn’t want to be medically discharged, I wanted to stay in. I now teach for the MOD at Blandford Camp which is what I needed.
“Sport means a lot to me. Since I considered applying for the Invictus Games I’ve done more. I’ve got more targets to aim for. It’s given me something which helps me medically as well as physically. In the Forces I just took it for granted that I could do physical things. Then you lose that ability and it’s a come down. Sports Recovery with Help for Heroes has helped so much. I didn’t get selected for the Invictus Games but there’s always next time and in the meantime I’ve got opportunities like the Sports Series.”
The Sports Series gives participants the chance to take part in sport at a regional and national level. Participants set the terms, so if they simply want to take part in the moment and have fun, that’s fine, or if they want to use it as a platform to go on to future opportunities they can do.
Over the last 20 years 40,000 people have been medically discharged from the British Armed Forces. The Sports Recovery programme offered by Help for Heroes has been a useful tool for thousands of wounded veterans in supporting them to rebuild their lives since the Charity was established