Having just won the Wheelchair Rugby 5s league and been promoted to the Premiership, we spoke with Sue Coombs at the club, to find out about how they got to the top.
How was the club formed?
We got in touch with the governing body and just said we’ve noticed there’s no club in the whole of Dorset. They jumped at the chance because there was nothing between Southampton and Plymouth. We did taster sessions just to see what the take-up would be and by the fourth taster session we had 12 people who wanted to play.
Why wheelchair rugby?
I think rugby, even though it’s not the same as able-bodied rugby is an English game and it’s got a big following, whereas basketball is more of an American game. After the taster sessions we then found a venue to play and then started the whole process of trying to get funding for chairs, which are around £3,000 each. I think we’ve currently got about 19 players with eight volunteers. We won our 5s league and came fourth in the Premiership league play-offs.
When we first came into the game there was only one type of wheelchair rugby, and that’s the type which you see in the Paralympics but we now have two versions. We have the traditional version and we have a version called wheelchair rugby 5s which (unlike the traditional format) is open to pretty much anybody with a physical impairment. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re an amputee or if you’ve got cerebral palsy.
A lot of clubs tried to stay with the traditional game and are finding that actually the players aren’t there and they’re having to open their doors to the new version. It’s easier to recruit for the new version, so we’re basically a 5s club.
What type of person plays wheelchair rugby?
Male or female, because it’s open to men and women. We go from age 20 up to age 64 and everything in-between. We have everybody from ex-military people to the girl or boy next door, to people who have probably not had much of a social life before they found us. We’ve got a very strong ethos in our club; it’s not written down anywhere, but it’s kind of a given: we’re very much: you come into the hall on a Sunday when we train, we shut the doors, you leave your disability at the door and you become an athlete. They all love it and they all get stuck into it.
What does the club give to its members beyond the actual sport?
It gives them confidence, it gives them pride in themselves, pride in the team; the ethic and the camaraderie is second to none. Everyone just wants to fight for the title.
For more information about the Dorset Destroyers visit:
www.thedorsetdestroyers.co.uk or find them on Facebook.