Wheelchair warriors provide State of Origin curtain raiser
Before Holden State of Origin II kicks off at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night, fans are being encouraged to drop into the Quaycentre next door to watch a curtain raiser as NSW takes on Queensland in the annual Wheelchair Rugby League Interstate Challenge.
The Blues are unbeaten in the three-year history of the fixture, which this year is being played on the same day as Origin for the first time. It will also be the first time the fixture has moved to Sydney.
Wheelchair Rugby League Australia director Joseph Chidiac described the modified version of the sport as "brutal", with plenty of big hits and bodies hitting the floor.
Each team has five players on court at a time; tackles are effected by removing a tag from an opponent's shoulder in a similar fashion to Oztag. But with wheelchairs in motion at high velocity it is very much a collision sport.
Chidiak hoped with free entry and the 3.30pm kick - allowing plenty of time for fans to get across to neighbouring ANZ Stadium - the event would serve to raise the profile of the sport.
"We're trying to build some awareness around wheelchair rugby league," he said.
"Entry is free so just get down there, have a look and enjoy it.
"Having it played in the same day as Origin will hopefully lift our profile and give us some exposure and help raise awareness. We want people to know our game is an inclusive one."
Some of the sport's participants have been in wheelchairs from a young age while others were the result of motor vehicle or boat accidents, and others had acquired spinal injuries while serving in the armed forces.
Some participants had full mobility and did not need to use a wheelchair outside of games.
"Our game is an inclusive game, it's for everyone. You don't need to have a disability to participate," Chidiak added.
"We've got a father and son in the NSW team who had a motor vehicle accident many years ago. His son is not disabled but he plays with his dad."
There will also be a 2pm curtain raiser to the Interstate Challenge featuring developing players from within the hosting region pitting junior NSW men, the NSWWRL Bluetongues, against Women's Wheelchair Rugby League Australia Redbacks.