Tigers Physical Disability Rugby League Interview

Posted: Thursday 12th March 2020 - 1:00 AM

So Nick, tell us a little bit about how you came to be involved with the Tigers Physical Disability Rugby League team? And give us a short history of PDRL at the Tigers?

Purely by chance actually, a brother of a work friend started playing at Leeds and suggested I might come down. I um’ed and ah’ed about it before as I didn’t really have a background in rugby at all, I’d not played league before. Then I decided to drop Cas a message and was down the next day at training and played my first game three days later at The Jungle, against Leeds and I ever since then I’ve been hooked!

The progression has been remarkable: We’ve gone from having a mixed physical and learning disability team that started with coach Neil Barnaby and Andy Lynch in 2018, to having two separate teams for PDRL and LDRL, now numbers are looking so good, we’re hoping to register two physical disability teams for the upcoming league in 2020. We’ve gone from strength-to-strength not just with numbers, but also the quality of rugby we play.

And can you explain a little bit about how the laws and setup of the PDRL game? And What makes it accessible to a broad range of people with differing physical disabilities?

There are both contact and non-contact roles which allow for players with all types of physical disability to find a place within the team to really contribute to the overall team effort. Certainly, the non-contact roles offer the opportunity to people who thought they’d never be able to play rugby and certainly how they are used tactically can often be crucial to deciding a game!

As well as this, the pitches are a little narrow to reflect the reduced nine-a-side lineups, and games are also shorter, which allows us to maintain the intensity and hopefully keep the quality of the rugby up to a high standard.

PDRL in England got a big boost to its profile thanks to Adam Hills’ “Take His Legs” documentary, how has the game grown over here in just the short amount of time it’s been running?

Oh it’s been massive! To go from a series of friendlies between four teams in 2018 when the sport was first finding its feet, to a fully formatted league in 2019, and through to 2020 where we are now with a league of ten teams has been fantastic. Additionally there are talks of a possible origin series, Yorkshire vs. North-West, and also of a “Celtic Series” between the home nations, which can only help to illustrate the growth of the game and should set the stage ahead of the 2021 World Cup where there will be a full slate of international PDRL fixtures alongside the main tournament.

What do you personally get out of playing Physical Disability Rugby League? And especially for a club such as Castleford Tigers?

It’s an honour to wear the black and amber, and to lead out a really great group of lads as part of the team. Playing in front of the Cas fans has been a really rewarding experience: They’ve given us such a fantastic reception whenever we’ve played. Personally, representing Cas as part of the curtain raiser at Super League’s Grand Final at Old Trafford was something I’d never thought possible before being part of this team and that says it all really: The experience afforded to me by being part of this team have just been phenomenal and building a team identity and getting to know the lads has been a key element of that.

How is the mood in the team? You’ve all been hitting pre-season pretty hard and must be ready for the season to get underway!?

For the start of this new season, we’ve had quite a few new players join who haven’t been to a PDRL game before, so the mood’s definitely one of anticipation and excitement. People can’t wait to get out on the field and have their first game.

Ultimately, we’re a tight group of players who support each other on and off the pitch. We’ve been pushing each other through our strength and conditioning in the pre-season (Thanks Coach Neil!) and now we’re moving more onto technique, with some sessions in the wrestle room and then we’ll finish with some fieldwork and drills to make sure we’re ready from the very first minute of that very first game!

What are your aims for the coming season?

So last year after making the semi-finals of Super League, it was great to get there but also gutting to miss out on going further. This year, we definitely want to get our hands on some silverware and improve on where we got to last season. As a team, that’s really our main goal is to make sure we win this year.

But on a more personal level, I’m really hoping to be selected for the England Community Lions Squad along with as many of my fellow Tigers as possible, I’m hoping we can get a big  contingent of the players picked for the national team and have some significant representation for Cas Tigers within the England setup.

Finally, we really pride ourselves on inclusion and on giving opportunities to players who thought they would never be able to play, and that’s where this second team, a developmental side will be crucial in allowing people to play and progress within the sport, so growing that’s as big a goal as any really: As much as we do want to win, we also want to be able to have as diverse a group of players as possible and offer the experience to as many people that want to come and play rugby and represent Castleford as we possibly can.

Thanks Nick, Good luck to you and the boys for the coming season!

Be sure to follow Nick on Instagram @who_needs_two_arms for more insights into PDRL at Castleford Tigers!

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