When Bradley Burns and Matthew Collins face off in the City v Country wheelchair rugby league match at Queanbeyan today (18 October), they will make tracks for others to follow.
Both are the only Canberrans to be selected for the game at Queanbeyan’s indoor sports stadium on Sunday at 1:00 pm, with NSW Rugby League looking to reinvigorate the sport which has been sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to limited numbers, tickets for this event have been exhausted and the event is sold out.
Brad, 17, has played elite sports and is making his mark in wheelchair rugby league after being diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a degenerative nerve condition that usually appears in adolescence and affects nerves in the arms and legs.
After moving from Brisbane to Canberra, Matt, 36, is now a trainer of officer cadets at Duntroon. He also became an advocate for adaptive sports after sustaining nine bulging discs in his back from an abseiling accident. He has also had both ankles reconstructed and has no meniscus in his knee.
He also lives with post-traumatic stress following the abseiling accident. He says wheelchair sports are a great way to combat anger management.
“We really need to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health by taking part in sports that promote activity and inclusion,” Matt says.
“Wheelchair rugby league is an amazing sport that anyone can play, especially when people with a disability mix with able-bodied athletes on a level playing field.
“It will be great just to be part of a team again.”
Brad, a Melbourne Storm supporter with a soft spot for the Raiders, has played wheelchair basketball and cricket and began playing rugby league this year.
Brad and Matt have also been involved with the development of wheelchair rugby league with the Raiders, where up to 30 wheelchair players were involved before COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s great to be playing again and the biggest thing for me is to continue to play sports,” says Brad.
“We would love to see more players get involved. Siblings, partners, anyone can play.”
Country v City has long played a part in New South Wales Rugby League sporting history and this tradition has been part of the NSW Wheelchair Rugby League representative program after five years of successful events.
The honours are evenly split, with last year’s match a draw. The Country and City teams also boast current Australian and State of Origin wheelchair representative players.
“This will be an exciting showcase of Wheelchair Rugby League and is a sign of things within the sport getting back to some sort of normality,” a NSWRL spokesperson said.
Before the Country v City match, the Score Raiders will take part in two ID Rugby League matches at Seiffert Oval, in what will be their first hit out of the year.
The Score Raiders are a rugby league team developed by The Disability Trust in conjunction with the Canberra Raiders and Canberra Region Rugby League. The Score Raiders play modified rules with two-handed touch. They train weekly and hope to play more regularly in a local competition in the future.
The Score Raiders will take on the City NSW ID team. The first game kicks off at 10:30 am, and the second at 11:30 am.
Further information about wheelchair rugby league, visit the Canberra Region Rugby League website.