Hawks ready to fly the flag for Plymouth in wheelchair rugby
A NEW wheelchair rugby club, West Country Hawks, has set up in Plymouth.
The sport, also known as murderball because of its fearless nature, is played on an indoor court and involves teams of up to 12.
Four players per side are allowed on court at any time.
Hawks currently have nine players and are looking for more to join the squad as well as volunteers.
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The team train every Monday at Plymouth Life Centre between 6pm-7pm, with newcomers welcome to drop by and give the sport a go.
Before Hawks were formed, the nearest club for anyone who wanted to play the sport was South Wales Pirates.
"People across the South West now have the opportunity to play the sport," said Hawks coach Chris Perkins.
"Wheelchair rugby is developing fast, and new teams are constantly forming across the country, with a Southampton-based team set to be the next one."
Hawks should have been competing at the first Coloplast Super Series at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, in Aylesbury, the birthplace of the Paralympics and home of the National Spinal Injuries Centre, at the weekend.
But the event had to be postponed due to bad weather.
Although the team were formed in October 2011, this season will be Hawks' first foray into competitive action in the British Wheelchair Rugby League.
The league is split into two divisions, with Hawks in Division Two along with Caledonian Crushers, North Wales Dragons, North East Bulls and Crash B.
Before that, on Saturday-week (February 2, 3pm-7pm), Hawks host South Wales Pirates and a Team GB select squad in a special Tri Series at the Life Centre. Admission is free.
"We know we'll be the underdogs. Pirates have been together for years, but it's something we're looking forward to," said Perkins.
Two of Hawks' top prospects are Faye West and Matt Chaffe.
According to reports, both players are being monitored by Team GB officials.
Since making its Paralympic debut in Sydney in 2000, wheelchair rugby has gone from strength to strength. Tickets for games at London 2012 sold out in record time. Although Team GB exited in the group stage, the sport was one of the London 2012's success stories.
"The Paralympics certainly made a big difference," said Perkins.
Wheelchair rugby is affiliated to and supported by the RFU in an attempt to better Team GB's 2012 Paralympic showing in Rio in 2016.
"The fact that the player pool available to the United States is around 4,000 compared to our 200-300 is proof that we still have a way to go before we get to where we want to be," said Perkins.
There are plans for a Wheelchair Rugby World Cup in 2015 to tie in with the 2015 IRB Rugby World Cup, being hosted on these shores.
FOR more information about West Country Hawks, email the club at email@example.com