Over 250 children from across the Ospreys region took part in the inaugural Disability Six Nations at Llandarcy Academy of Sport on Friday.
19 schools and several teams from across Ospreylia were in attendance in a day full of rugby, from obstacle courses, kicking, wheelchair rugby to tackling our new Canterbury Tackleometer! 45 students from Neath Port Talbot group of Colleges were on hand to deliver some of the days activities, after becoming qualified rugby leaders through the OitC.
Tom Sloane, Ospreys in the Community Foundation manager said: “Since the Disability framework was put in place, we have seen a huge increase and awareness around disability and inclusive rugby throughout the region.
“Following the success of our first Inclusive Community Club based at Heronsbridge School, we have now set up another ICC at Morriston Leisure Centre, with regular participants enjoying the new opportunities on offer.
“Heronsbridge and Pen y Bryn schools took part in the Rookie Rugby week for girls and Ospreys in the Community staff are now an ‘Autism Aware’ organisation following ASD Wales training.
“There is a more inclusive approach throughout the organisation. The Swansea Gladiators played Worcester Warriors Mixed Ability team at Liberty Stadium ahead of Ospreys v Worcester this season and the region has led the way in setting up both and adult and youth wheelchair rugby teams. Numbers and awareness of those clubs has increased this year following the launch of the strategy, with more children now taking part in the sport and having a positive rugby experience. The youth team has gone on to become British champions in less than 18 months. We are looking forward to providing even more positive experiences for all.”
WRU Disability Co-ordinator, Darren Carew, was employed by the Welsh Rugby Union to launch a Disability Rugby strategy, to increase the inclusive opportunities available all over Wales and also helped organise Friday's event. Under the stewardship of Greg Woods who leads on all alternative forms of the game, Darren was armed with an ambitious to-do list of priorities, and 12 months in, many of these have already been achieved.
Friday's Disability Six Nations at Llandarcy was a huge stepping stone in driving inclusive opportunities in rugby forward in Wales, with children with a range of disabilities taking part. Osprey player, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler also joined in the fun during the day.
“We were determined to ensure there were opportunities for everyone to take part in the national sport,” explained Carew, who personally suffered life-changing leg and brain injuries while serving in Afghanistan.
The latest development is the acquisition of 10 specially designed wheelchairs for use in introducing new players of all ages to wheelchair rugby, which will add to the wheelchair rugby opportunities currently on offer.
The chairs, commissioned by the Prince’s Gate Trust (renamed Dare to Dream Trust) were designed and manufactured by specialists ROMA Sport in Bridgend and gifted to Disability Sport Wales who handed them over at Friday’s event and used for the first time.
Darren Carew’s first task was to provide opportunities in every region to take part in disability or mixed ability rugby, and there has been clear progress in all these areas after the hard work from the OitC team:
INCLUSIVE CLUBS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY
Young people aged between six and 16 with a range of disabilities and needs are now attending fun-based, Inclusive Community Clubs (ICCs) around Wales led by engaging community coaches who are in tune with the needs of the young people.
Following the success of the Ospreys Inclusive Community Club at Heronsbridge School in Bridgend, the OitC were able to launch a second ICC in the region at Morriston Leisure Centre.
MIXED ABILITY RUGBY
- In addition to the two established mixed ability clubs – the Llanelli Warriors and the Swansea Gladiators, there are now six mixed ability clubs around Wales – the Cardiff Chiefs, the Dragons All Stars, the Colwyn Bay Stingrays and the Newtown Dragons are now also providing playing and volunteering opportunities for adults.
“It is important the opportunities are sustainable and that there is a pathway for participants to stay involved in the game throughout their lives,” continued Carew. “We are thrilled there are now opportunities in every region and those will continue to grow I’m sure. The Llanelli Warriors, who this season played their 300th game, and the Swansea Gladiators have greatly helped to grow the mixed ability game around Wales.”
A key element of the Disability Rugby strategy was to ensure the whole game adopts a more inclusive approach and 103 hub officers, WRU and teaching staff have already completed a level of inclusion training to enable this to become a reality.
The 90 full-time rugby hub officers at schools and colleges around Wales are now are now offering all pupils the chance to take part in the rugby opportunities on offer, including those within SEN groups, units and schools.