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Chidiac recognised in wheelchair rugby league first

He's been the heart and soul of wheelchair rugby league for more than a decade and now Joe Chidiac has the acknowledgement to show for it.

Chidiac was awarded life membership of Wheelchair Rugby League Australia (WRL) earlier this week, becoming the first person to receive the honour within the organisation.

His work in developing programs and competitions in previous years has long contributed to Australia's recent success in reaching the wheelchair rugby league World Cup in 2021.

"When I first started this journey the large majority of people said it wouldn’t work," Chidiac said.

"I must admit that I was strongly driven by my desire to be part of the game that I loved, but over the years my greatest joy is to see the faces of the young players and knowing that sport is the great equaliser.

"This sport gives everyone a chance to belong and that’s what continues to drive me to ensure its growth and success".

NRL Affiliated States manager Martin Meredith congratulated Chidiac on his achievements.

Joseph Chidiac.
Joseph Chidiac. ©NRL Photos

"It's a tremendous honour for him, he's wheelchair bound all the time but has got a great passion for the sport and the programs," Meredith told NRL.com.

"He's been the driving force in the establishment of the programs for more than a decade here in Australia.

"He assists in fundraising, whether it be trying to raise money for chairs, the hiring of courts, or through social networking to promote the game in that sphere as well.

"He just doesn't sit back and hope it all happens, he's a doer."

Chidiac's dedication continues to thrive despite the uncertainty surrounding the 2021 World Cup with current border restrictions in place across the world during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 15-day tournament scheduled for November in 2021 is still more than 500 days away and will be part of the men's and women's World Cup main events in a first for the sport.

However, current restrictions in place for indoor events have also halted any momentum that was beginning to build for the tournament.

Australia have drawn hosts England, Spain and Norway in group A.

"Joe was like don't worry, we'll raise the money and make it work," Meredith said.

"He's very determined to get the players to England. He's a fairly determined bugger, he might be quietly spoken but underneath the exterior, he is a determined person who is quite passionate about the sport and will go to all measures to promote it."

The growth in wheelchair rugby league has risen in recent years with England touring Australia in October last year.

Meredith re-iterated why it was the most inclusive sport of all.

"They're normal people who have all come from different walks of life and the game gives them a bit of purpose and focus," Meredith said.

"Whether they've suffered a motor vehicle accident or are paraplegic, or some are amputees or even war veterans, it doesn't discriminate. 

"They're people who want to be able to experience winning, losing and training with a purpose just like anyone else.

"It's quite inspiring and Joe has really been a part of the development in helping people achieve their dreams."