Wigan Warriors make history with first wheelchair rugby team in 150 years

Video report by ITV Granada Reports' sports correspondent David Chisnall.

One of the most famous names in Rugby League are making history the year of their 150th anniversary.

Wigan Warriors has existed since 1872, but only now in 2022 does it have a wheelchair rugby league team. 

They are one of eight sides in the expanded Betfred Wheelchair Super League for 2022, which starts in March.

It's the first time in their 150 history that Wigan Warriors has had a wheelchair team. Credit: ITV News

Wheelchair Rugby League is a fully inclusive sport, for disabled and non-disabled players, which is played over 80 minutes.

"To have a wheelchair rugby league team is huge", explains Phil Roberts, the Head Coach of Wigan Warriors Wheelchair Team.

"It sends a message to everyone involved in rugby league that, what I firmly believe to be the biggest club in the history of the game is involved in wheelchair rugby league, is huge.

"It's just a massive message to everybody that wheelchair rugby league is on the map."

Phil Roberts, the Head Coach of Wigan Warriors Wheelchair Team. Credit: ITV News

The game is designed to replicate the traditional game of Rugby League, but with modifications in the rules to suit people playing in a wheelchair.

For example, you remove velcro tags from an opposition player's shoulder when you are tackling and kicks are made with a clenched fist.

Wigan Warriors encourages anyone over the age of 16 to get involved with the sport.

Wheelchair Rugby League is a fully inclusive sport which is played over 80 minutes. Credit: ITV News

Player Adam Rigby says he is proud to be involved in the sport. He said: "I've grown up in Wigan since I was a baby and all my life I've supported Wigan.

"I remember sitting on my couch with my nan watching the games on Friday and Saturday night so it brings back a lot of memories.

"To be able to pull on a Wigan shirt, it means the world to me."

Among the newly assembled squad is 51-year-old Shaun Gash who has fallen in love with game after discovering it a few years ago.

"It's an amazing inclusive sport", he said. "It's one of them where you can feel part of the team but also play alongside all ages and disabilities and everybody is equal, it's great."

Wigan Warrior Shaun Gash with good friend, and world heavy-weight champion, Tyson Fury.

Shaun travels to training from his home in Morecambe where he is good friends with the town's heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury.

"I'd really love to get him down to play once he's out of camp and he's finished his fighting it'd be nice to get him down to experience the sport", Shaun said.

"He's experienced basketball, but let's get him down and have a game of rugby league."

You can find more information on Wheelchair Rugby and Wigan Warriors here.