The Sharks Wheelchair Rugby League team, having come from fourth position to qualify for the competition decider, handed in a spirited performance before going down 38-28 to the Canberra Raiders in the Tier 2 competition Grand Final played at the Menai Indoor Sports Centre on Sunday.
Trailing 22-18 at half time, the Sharks were well and truly in the contest but it was Raiders who prevailed, three second half tries sealing the result and the Tier 2 NSW Wheelchair premiership.
Team captain Jeremy Ayoub scored four tries in the match for the Sharks, with Emily Becroft crossing for the other, Ayoub also adding four goals.
The Sharks had beaten the Bulldogs 26-22 to earn themselves a place in the Grand Final.
Eddie George, Chairman NSW Wheelchair Rugby League, praised the two teams for their efforts while explaining it was the experience in the Raiders outfit that proved to be the difference on the day.
“The Canberra Raiders have had the same squad for a couple of years now. In terms of players knowing where their teammates are going to be, that gave them the upper hand today,” George said following the Grand Final.
“Cronulla went into the semi finals as underdogs, they came into the finals with some outstanding games and played really well in the Grand Final, they took the lead on a couple of occasions but unfortunately couldn’t come away with the win.”
In the Tier 1 Grand Final it was the Dragons claiming a third straight title with a 58-40 win over the Wests Tigers, with George going on to outline the growth of the Wheelchair form of the game and how far it had progressed in just a relatively short period of time.
“Wheelchair Rugby League has been around internationally a little while now and was introduced in Australia in 2009. We started our competition in 2010 on the back of the hard work of Joseph Chidiac who is Director of Wheelchair Rugby League in Australia,” George said.
“It started off with four teams, started to progress, we started to get more numbers, then it got the backing of some clubs like the Sharks, Wests Tigers, St George and the Penrith Panthers.”
The support of the Sharks includes the supply of game jersey’s, caps and players were presented with club back packs on Grand Final day on Sunday.
“You can be able bodied and play wheelchair rugby league, its completely inclusive. Able bods and people with a disability can play on the same court,” George explained.
“The rules are similar to the running game. To complete a tackle we have tags patched into each of our shoulders, similar to OzTag in a way. You have to rip off the tag to be called a tackle. Our passes still have to go back. We don’t do 40/20’s and we don’t do scrums, everything else is much the same and to kick the ball we use our hands,” he added.
The Wheelchair Rugby League season continues with a City-Country match in Queanbeyan, before a NSW squad is selected to play Queensland in an Origin match, COVID restrictions allowing, later in the year.
For those unfamiliar with Wheelchair Rugby League, George encouraged people to check it out on various media streaming channels, or better still to check out the website and to get to a game in person when the season recommences in the new year.
“You can watch the games on YouTube but honestly I don’t think that does our game justice. I do recommend watching live,” George said.
From the Sharks side, team captain Jeremy Ayoub, the scorer of four tries in the Grand Final, was selected in the 10-player City team to play Country this coming weekend. In that City team are four able bodied, five disabled and one junior player.
For more on wheelchair rugby league, go to the website at https://www.nrlwheelchair.com.au/
Tier 2 Grand Final
Canberra Raiders 38
Joey Abboud 2, Jessie Mowczan, Tim Robinson, Ralph Hasna, Baden Mowczan tries, Tim Robinson 4, Joey Abboud goals
Cronulla Sharks 28
Jeremy Ayoub 4, Emily Becroft tries, Jeremy Ayoub 4 goals
Tier 1 Grand Final
St. George Dragons 58
Photos - courtesy Steve Montgomery - ourfootyteam.com