As I pass eight months of Presidency for NZWR I’ve taken a moment to reflect on the hopes and aspirations for the sport, as well as what has been achieved.
It is evident that our wheelchair rugby community and our sport is a Whanau, offering endless support, time, energy and passion. For the volunteers, our unsung heroes, NZWR wants to continue, and to improve, the recognition of your vital time and efforts – your work ensures the sport has every available opportunity to grow and evolve.
· NZ Wheelchair Rugby community has hosted another National league of successful tournaments. The Bash, Low Pointers, Ken Sowden Cup and the WRCs. From these we have taken on feedback, ensuring planning and the delivery of future events continue to improve. The final National League event for the season, NZ Nationals, is being hosted by Canterbury Wheelchair Rugby 11 – 13 August.
· The Wheel Blacks had a period of consolidation with less travel, new faces have come on board to support the programme, and support individuals’ growth and development. A positive outcome is evident with the Wheel Blacks team winning all their matches at Round 3 of the Fierce 4 Rugby Competition hosted in Coomera, Brisbane. Additional to this Cody Everson & Cameron Leslie were named in the All-Star team. This is a real highlight for the NZ wheelchair rugby community, as well as the NZWR Committee.
· The successful bid for NZ Wheelchair Rugby to host the 2017 Asia-Oceania Zonal Championships has been a big moment for the sport. The primary purpose of NZWR’s hosting of this international event is to utilise it as a spring board in raising awareness of the sport. The ability to provide the Wheel Blacks with home court advantage in potentially qualifying for the World Champs in Sydney next year was also identified as a key purpose. NZWR has secured SkyTV to televise the Asia Oceania Zonal Championship medal games. Drake Medox and DG Sports are two sponsors whose commitment to NZWR has been formalised. Grant funding has been secured and we continue to engage with new and exciting partners who will help us secure the future of our sport.
· Through the processes of organising an international event relationships with key partners, The Rugby Foundation and NZ Spinal Trust, have been re-established. Both organisations indicate strong interest on future collaboration in development of educational resources and player recruitment.
· Wheelchair Rugby is the showcase sport at the next Halberg Junior Disability Games in Auckland, 6th – 8th of Oct. This event hosts over 100 disabled athletes over a long weekend of competition from all over the North and South Island.
· Social Grading will continue to be reviewed to find the best solution to make our game accessible, fair and enticing. This is not a quick fix but the Committee is determined to find a solution. Please present your ideas to the Committee, a sub-committee will be formed to support Social Grading ongoing.
Looking ahead to the future:
· We are fortunate to have a great club/regional structure through the passionate players and volunteer support. NZWR, as the National body, want to engage with clubs to gain an understanding of the support you need. We want wheelchair rugby regions to have the necessary resources, knowledge and capability, NZWR are keen to find a way to support development of these. We want to hear your ideas; email Admin@wheelchairrugby.org.nz with Development in the subject line.
· Governance. Let’s be honest this isn’t the sexy part of sport! However, good governance and professional practice is vital to maintain our sport. The Committee is undertaking the process of reviewing Policies and Procedures in development of a best practice. The Strategic Framework is being reviewed and developed into a Strategic Plan for wheelchair rugby’s development of clear goals and objectives to guide the Governance and for the whole sport to achieve.
· High Performance - Wheel Blacks. While continuing to support the growth of our team and challenging individual players to earn a Wheel Blacks placing, the pathway and opportunities from grassroots to high performance could be more visible and supported. Another opportunity to hear ideas from the players, regions, volunteers and officials.
· Success, be this pulling on a Wheel Blacks top or regional participation on a regular basis – NZWR’s main aim is to encourage and promote the growth and spirit of wheelchair rugby.
A snap shot of my first eight months! NZWR Presidency is certainly a busy, challenging and exciting role. I continue to feel honoured to be part of the leadership team for NZ’s wheelchair rugby community. NZ wheelchair rugby’s great, and historic legacy, has given us all the parts we need to grow and secure our sports future. I look forward to continuing our journey as we grow our sport, make new history with the ongoing success of the sport - at all levels.
I’ll leave you with my favourite quote which I believe sums up our potential;
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination” – Nelson Mandela