Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair team ready to kickstart new era at Leeds Beckett University

Picture by Richard Blaxall/SWpix.com - 19/09/2021 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League Wheelchair Grand Final - Leeds Rhinos v Leyland Warriors - Medway Park Sports Centre, Gillingham, England - Leeds celebrate winning the trophy

A new era of Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair Rugby League will commence this weekend, when the side play their first official match under the Leeds Rhinos brand in the 2022 season opener against North Wales Crusaders Wheelchair Rugby League at Leeds Beckett University.

It will be the first time that the side have taken to the pitch since their epic Grand Final win over Leyland Warriors back in September to clinch a league, Wheelchair Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield treble.

While the squad may look the same, behind the scenes it has been all change with the Rhinos Wheelchair team now officially coming stewardship of Leeds Rhinos Foundation after 10 hugely successful years with the Spider-Y charity, who had helped the side to get off the ground and lay down the roots of becoming the country’s most successful Wheelchair Rugby League team.

Speaking at their training session last week, Leeds Rhinos Foundation CEO Bob Bowman paid tribute to the efforts of Spider-Y as a driving force behind the growth of Wheelchair Rugby League in Leeds.

“This year is a new start for Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair Rugby League as part of the Foundation and it’s really exciting times for them to officially come under the Leeds Rhinos brand.

“It’s important that we acknowledge the great work Spider-Y have done throughout the past decade to get Wheelchair Rugby League off the ground in Leeds and put together a team that has won every trophy possible and blazed a trial for the sport in this country.

“We have to thank them for all their involvement over the years and the fantastic job they did for the Rhinos Wheelchair team, but I think everyone here knew it should be seen to be fully part of the Rhinos family, and so for it to embraced by us and looked after by us is a really important move.

“Obviously they’re a great bunch of players who have been really successful in the past, so hopefully we can continue that and look to develop the club both on and off the field. We’ve got some superb training and playing facilities now at Leeds Beckett University for them and it’s very exciting to strengthen our relationship with them with such an inclusive offer.”

On the pitch, the Rhinos will be looking to pick up where they left off after a historic unbeaten 2021 season which they saw completely dominate their competition. For club captain James Simpson though, the bigger picture is how their new set up can be a catalyst to support the growth of the game over the next 2, 5 and 10 years and start to bring through the next generation of players.

“It’s a really exciting period for Wheelchair Rugby League with the home World Cup coming up at the end of the year and the Wheelchair Super League increased to 7 teams, with the introduction of Warrington Wolves.

“We’re entering a kind of ‘new era’ now for the club where the backing of Leeds Rhinos Foundation will mean we’re now training in world-class facilities, we have the full Rhinos kit and we’re getting so much more support with sponsors and behind the scenes.

“I’ve been lucky enough to see the sport grow massively since I’ve been playing. For example last year we were playing our Finals live on Sky Sports and BBC and there was a real buzz around it which was great, so I’m hoping this is another stepping stone for growing the game even more.

“From a club perspective, we’ve got around 8 or 9 players in the First Team at the moment but ideally we want that to be a squad of maybe 12, alongside a Development and Junior team. To see 30 or 35 players rolling out playing Wheelchair Rugby League in Rhinos shirts would make me extremely proud and so that has to be the aim now.

“I just want the club to keep getting bigger and better and hopefully we will be able to remain at the forefront of Wheelchair Rugby League and setting the benchmark for how it should be done.”

The Carnegie School of Sport building boasts a wealth of outstanding facilities including dedicated research laboratories, a hypoxic laboratory, a health and wellbeing studio, a covered rooftop 60m sprint track, enhanced strength and conditioning spaces, and changing and recovery facilities.

The facility at Leeds Beckett University’s Headingley Campus is a base for the Carnegie School of Sport’s undergraduate, postgraduate and research programmes and provides a hub for elite athletes who use the university’s sports performance expertise.

Leeds Rhinos play North Wales Crusaders in the Wheelchair Super League on Sunday 6 March at Leeds Beckett University’s Sports Arena, Kick Off at 15:15.

Spectators are welcome to attend and will be asked to make a donation to Leeds Rhinos Foundation to support our Disability Rugby League programmes. Score updates will also be available through our Twitter account- @RugbyLeeds