Saints wheelchair rugby continues to go from strength to strength

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Saints wheelchair rugby is on the rise.

In fact, so popular has it become that the club has added a second team, naturally named the Wanderers, to keep up with increasing demand for participation in the sport.

Since the creation of the first team back in 2017, Saints have gone from strength to strength.

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And that progress shows little sign of halting any time soon.

Saints' wheelchair rugby players continue to impress (picture: Claire Jones)Saints' wheelchair rugby players continue to impress (picture: Claire Jones)
Saints' wheelchair rugby players continue to impress (picture: Claire Jones)

“The numbers are rising week on week, and the programme has been an absolute success," said Saints wheelchair rugby head coach Jamie Higgins.

"We do run it as a community programme to engage people from all walks of life, including those who want to play competitively and those that want a bit of social and physical activity.

"People can still come in and train with the rest of the team even if they don't want to play within the competitive league.

"It just seems to be growing and growing.

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"First and foremost, we are definitely a community programme but the success of the team has blown up over the past few years with a few league wins and growing in ability.

"It's been huge and we're constantly getting emails from people wanting to come and take part, be that juniors or seniors.”

Saints entered the first WR5s Championship in 2018 and were crowned champions of that division during the same season.

They then finished sixth of eight clubs in the Premiership a later.

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The league then reformed, with only the top five sides remaining in the top tier, but Saints were far from fazed, winning the Championship again in 2021 after a year away due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The biggest achievement came in the following campaign as newly-promoted Saints secured Premiership glory.

They are currently second in this year’s standings, behind Leicester Tigers, with two of the three weekends of action still to go.

"Weekend two comes this weekend at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and then it’s up to Stoke-on-Trent for finals weekend two weeks later,” Higgins explained.

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"We're up against our foes, Leicester Tigers. We took the win from them last year so they're looking to take it back.

"But we're fighting hard to retain our title because we don't want it to go back to Welford Road.”

Such has been the interest in Saints wheelchair rugby, the club formed its second team, which competes in League Two, the fourth tier.

Higgins said: “We've got so many new players coming in and wanting to play competitively, but we can only submit 12 players within a team for a league weekend.

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"We had to make a decision whether we took a selection process with 12 players or looked to fund another team in the leagues and start them off in the fourth tier.

"We decided to give everyone the same opportunities so we've taken a Wanderers team, mainly made up of a lot of our newer players but with some experience there to go and support them, give them direction and help them grow their confidence and ability.”

Interest in the action is not just growing on the court but off it, too.

Saints, who hold junior training from 6pm to 7pm and senior training between 7pm and 9pm on Friday nights at Kettering Leisure Village, are able to attract plenty of support.

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"We're getting a real good support from the Saints fans who are now following the wheelchair rugby team as well," Higgins said.

"Last year, when we won the Premiership, Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby said they'd never actually seen anything like it as a regular league weekend, with fans in there, singing 'When the Saints go marching in', waving their flags and really cheering the team on to the win.

"They'd never experienced that outside of international tournaments so it's clear the popularity is growing.

"We're really proud of what the wheelchair rugby team is doing at the moment."

Saints’ wheelchair rugby team are always on the lookout for new sponsorship. Anyone interested should send an email to [email protected]