The Wheel Blacks
The men & women who play wheelchair rugby in New Zealand are bound together through hard work and sacrifice… and united by the shared experience of having a disability. Yet this disability doesn’t define who they are – they are husbands & wives, sons & daughters, brothers & sisters… their lives defined by their jobs, their studies, their upbringing – their home cities and towns. And they are athletes.
Those that rise to the level of representing New Zealand are also defined by the title of being a Wheel Black.
The athletes who have the privilege to call themselves Wheel Blacks are amongst our most talented, well trained and prepared athletes in the country… as well as being some of our most inspirational Kiwi’s. Their grit and determination in the face of adversity is unquestionable and uncompromising.
Introduction to Wheelchair Rugby
Wheelchair Rugby is a mixed team sport for male and female athletes. A unique sport created by athletes with a disability, it combines elements of many sports, including basketball, rugby and ice hockey. Players compete in teams of four to carry a ball across the opposing team's goal line. Full contact between wheelchairs is an integral part of the sport as players use their chairs to block and hold opponents. Wheelchair Rugby is a Paralympic sport, with twenty‐six countries competing in international competition and more than ten others developing national programs.
Who Can Play
Athletes must have a disability that affects at least 3 of their 4 limbs - players must meet minimum disability criteria and be classifiable under the sport classification rules. Most players have spinal cord injuries, with full or partial paralysis of the legs and partial paralysis of the arms. Other disability groups who play include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, amputations, polio, and other neurological conditions. Players are assigned a sport classification based on their level of function; teams must field players with a mix of classification values, which means players with different levels of function are all valuable for a team to be strong.
What Equipment is Needed
Athletes compete in manual wheelchairs that are specifically built for the sport. The rules include detailed specifications for wheelchairs to ensure safety and fairness. In international competition there is strict adherence for all wheelchairs to meet these requirements. The game is played with a white ball, similar to a volleyball. Four cones, pylons, or markers are used to mark the goal lines. A game clock is also required; any clock used for basketball, handball, or other similar sports is usually sufficient.