|08-12-2002, 09:25 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Psychos? No, just rugby players
Psychos? No, just rugby players
By Ben Nadarajan
WITH a loud thud, a wheelchair moving at high speed strikes another, jolting both hard enough to rattle some bones.
It was no accident.
The men in these wheelchairs had deliberately collided into each other.
But they are not a bunch of psychopaths out to hurt one another. They are just playing wheelchair rugby.
Recently, members of the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby Association were in town to promote the sport.
They held workshops explaining the rules of the game to the basketball team from the Singapore Sports Council for the Disabled.
They also played an exhibition match against a New Zealand team at the Co-Curricular Activity Branch at the old School of Physical Education along Evans Road.
The game is similar to American football or ice hockey. A lot of action occurs off the ball as players use their wheelchairs to take out opponents and create space for their team mates to cross the opposing line and score.
A player can use his wheelchair to throw himself into the opponent's path to halt his advance. In addition, two players can also sandwich another opponent.
Not hard to see why the sport used to be called 'murderball'.
Wheelchair contact is allowed, but not body contact.
Singapore's national rugby coach Alan Thomas joked: 'This is too violent for me. I'd rather stick with full-contact rugby.'
The constant crashes may resemble scenes from a violent action movie, but the wheelchair rugby players seem to enjoy every bit of it.
In fact, the more collisons they cause, the more pleased they seem to be.
James Price, 24, who played rugby before an accident six years ago, said: 'It is even more fast-paced and exciting than rugby, and the players need a lot of skills to move around and handle the ball at the same time.'
The sport was developed by a rehabilitation centre in Canada in the mid-1970s.
Since then, it has become an international paralympic sport and was a medal-sport at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games.
Played on a basketball court, it is for tetraplegics - those who are impaired in both the lower and upper limbs.
Before the match, each player has to heave himself into a specially-constructed lightweight aluminium wheelchair which costs about $6,000.
The wheelchair looks like a mini-chariot as it is specially equipped with some light 'armour' to make the knocks easier to bear. The wheels are always battered and dented after every match.
The players have to be strapped up to prevent them from being thrown off. Two additional small wheels and a lower sitting position also help to stabilise the wheelchair so it does not topple over easily on contact.
If nothing else, the sport has made Jonathan Coggan, 19, more independent.
He said: 'I used to depend on my full-time nurse for everything. Now, after picking up wheelchair rugby, I do most of the simple things on my own.'
Singapore's disabled basketballer Jack Lai, 45, might take up the sport. He said: 'Watching the game is not that fun, but when I got involved in the match, it became very thrilling.'
Michael Rees, the group head of global markets for Standard Chartered Plc, which sponsored the event, said: 'Watching them play makes me feel very humble.
'They typify everything which true sportsmen should have - the courage to overcome adversity.'
How it's played
WHEELCHAIR rugby is played differently from the usual contact version.
The ball used is a volleyball, which can be carried and passed in any way except kicking. It can also be passed forward, unlike contact rugby which allows only back-passes.
If the ball goes out of play or there is an infringement, a throw-in is awarded.
A player who is holding on to the ball has to bounce it once every 10sec.
A match consists of four 8min quarters.
A ''try'' is scored by carrying the ball over the opponent's line.
A team consists of four players, but with limitless substitutions.
Each player has a certain classification ranging from 0.5-3.5, depending on the level of his disability.
A player in the lowest classification (0.5) cannot move his fingers or raise his arms and also does not have much upper body movement. A high classification player (3.5) can move his fingers and arms quite well, and has some upper body mobility.
At any one time during a match, the four players' combined classifications cannot exceed eight points.