Written by Jim Roberts
Edited by Genevieve Gordon
The Good, The Bad, The Incomprehensible
Currently sat in glorious Phoenix sunshine reflecting on what has been a very busy couple weeks of rugby.
First off was GBWR selection camp for 2017. There was a number of retirements after Rio2016 so this camp saw the introduction of quite a few new faces in to the squad, each bringing an excitement and enthusiasm and will have to prove themselves.
It really doesn’t seem that long since I was in their position being at my first elite camp selection. And honestly looking back I’ve no idea how I made the team… I was terrible!
I know there are lots of areas of my game that need improvements but it’s encouraging seeing where the new players are now. Because even though there are improvements to be made as individuals and as a team I really believe this new crop of players are further ahead in terms of knowing the game than I was when I started.
It was also a weird feeling at the selection camp to be one of the senior players, even though I’ve been fortunate enough to have been getting quite a lot of game time I had still considered myself one of the new guys. I definitely think it will take some getting used to.
Selection camp should have been an exciting time with players coming back together after a bit of time off following the Rio2106 Paralympics, and with new players coming in wanting to prove themselves. The whole camp though was overshadowed by the ongoing situation with UK Sport’s funding decision.
GBWR’s chief executive came to camp to talk to us about the appeals process and everything that was going on behind the scenes at GBWR to make sure that we can secure the future of an Elite GB wheelchair rugby team.
The whole camp actually made me feel really proud, it reminded me that I was part of something, something that others and not only myself believed in and wanted to fight for. People who’ve spent any time around wheelchair rugby know how far the GB team has come and how much potential we have. I am still committed to being the best player I can be, and the will to improve even with all this funding uncertainty has never wavered.
Straight after selection camp it was back to Phoenix to play for Ability 360 Heat and almost straight in to competition. We had a couple of training sessions to sharpen up some chemistry before having back to back tournament weekends. The first tournament was the “Demolition Derby tournament at “The Lakeshore Foundation” in Birmingham Alabama. It was a fun tournament at an amazing facility.
We went unbeaten during the tournament and were able to practice a lot of game scenarios that are hard to replicate in our own scrimmages.
Although we won every game by a good margin over the competition there are still areas we are looking to improve.
The “Ability360 Heat” team can be a difficult team to play on at times, every member on the team demands excellence from themselves and from their teammates; we can be quite critical of ourselves and each other. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way! I love that we’re striving for that perfect game. It makes us stronger as a team and it’s the reason I feel I’ve improved so much since playing with this team.
Sometimes it does look like we’re arguing and not having fun. This isn’t the case – being better for us is fun!
The second tournament was “Rugby Rave” which is our home Phoenix tournament. Our team approached this tournament slightly differently; we split our squad into two separate teams. One consisted of 2.0 players while the team I was on was focusing on was what we call a Hi-Lo lineup consisting of two 3.0 players and two 1.0 players. (Each team has a point level for players and that is what I mean by the 3.0 or 2.0 or 1.0 making an aggregate of 8.0 on court.)
There was a lot more nervous energy in the squad before this tournament, mainly because “Rugby Rave” is regarded as one of the most competitive tournaments all year in wheelchair rugby and we’d effectively split up our strongest lineup. Some may call this madness! Did it pay off? Read on…
We had some great competitive games during the tournament and it honestly was one of the most fun tournaments I’d played in a while. I just love when games are close. It makes it so much more intense. Not only for me playing but it makes the sport so much more fun to watch.
In the end it was another successful tournament for the “Ability360 Heat”, we managed to get both teams into the final. My team came out on top, but it was really nice to lay down a marker to the rest of the league. Teams are really gonna have to bring their A game to nationals if they want to stop us now.
Just as I was finishing this blog, GBWR has received the verdict from UK Sport in regarding the appeal of the funding cuts.
It is NOT good news.
I’m feeling pretty raw about the decision at the moment so it’s probably not the best time to put those feelings in to this blog. But stay tuned for future blogs.
You can read the GBWR statement and UK Sport statement here.
Read the Sky Sports article on UK SPort’s rejection of all seven appeals here.