A win for NZ's Physical Disability Rugby League community

By Jessica Tyson

New Zealand's Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRLNZ) community is celebrating a new win for the sport after confirmation they will play in the curtain-raiser match for Tonga verse Great Britain League Lions when they tour the Southern Hemisphere in October.

PDRLNZ facilitator and support player Paul Stamp says the whole team is excited.

“They've only had games against Australia.  This is big, this is going to be televised all over the world.”

Captain of the team, Jason Gilmour says, “I'm very excited, happy, can't wait.”

The team was established in 2015 and have played in Brisbane and Sydney against Australia.

In the upcoming match, the Polynesia All Stars will play against the Invitational All Stars.

"They're representing their family their hapu, their iwi. They're representing themselves as well," says coach Raymond Greaves.

"A lot of these players have been told right from an early age that they can’t do certain things [but it's possible] through the love of rugby league and the great inclusiveness of rugby league ... a couple there that couldn’t walk without the aid of a cane when I first met them. [Now they're] running 50m in order to score a try."

Raising awareness

The franchise members hope the game will raise more awareness for Physical Disability Rugby League NZ.

Research by the 2013 census shows there are around 13,000 Māori and 8,000 Pacific people in New Zealand who have a physical disability, so Greaves hopes more get involved in the sport.

"[There's some] disappointment that they’re not here to be able to enjoy what there is to be offered," he says, "We're still working on getting things out there."

The team  has support from former Warriors players, including Tony Tuimavave.

“We’re trying to get more awareness for people who have children with disability.  Instead of locking them away, bring them out and stop all this looking down on them, treating them different which they're not.”

 The teams will clash on October 26. The game will also coincide with the inaugral RLIF Oceania Cup,  a new tournament established to create regular fixtures for Pacific teams.