A Team GB star who lost both legs in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan joined forces with Sale Sharks to inspire youngsters in a special tag rugby session at Hebden Green School, in Winsford, Cheshire.
Cpl Stuart Robinson, who won gold at the last Invictus Games as part of the GB wheelchair rugby team, told his story to two groups of excited young people before taking to his own chair to show off his skills.
And then it was over to the pupils, who had the chance to play tag rugby in their wheelchairs under the watchful eyes of coaches from the award-winning Sale Sharks Community Trust.
The day of activities was arranged as part of the inclusive ‘In the Pack’ rugby programme delivered across the north west by the Trust.
Designed to open up rugby to groups of people who might not have the chance to play the game before, inclusion coaches use tag and wheelchair tag rugby to raise awareness of disability sport.
“It was inspirational to see how the children reacted to the story that Stuart told them of how he came to play wheelchair rugby,” said Sale Sharks Inclusion Officer Vicky Irwin.
“The In the Pack programme is designed to show just how inclusive rugby can be and how powerful sport can be – and Stuart’s story demonstrates that perfectly.
“These young people have so many challenges to overcome but we want to give them confidence that they can achieve everything they want to achieve.
“And if we find someone with a dream to play Paralympic wheelchair rugby, then we’ll do our best to guide them in the right direction.”
Cpl Stuart Robinson, from Morecambe, Lancs, plays for Southport wheelchair rugby club, West Coast Crash, as well as the GBWR side.
And he was only too happy to give up a day of his time to promote wheelchair rugby – or ‘murderball’, as it is often known.
“I spent two months in a hospital bed, including six or seven weeks in an induced coma, and when I woke up I was in a pretty low place,” he said. “I needed motivation and because I love sport, that’s where mine came from.
“Wheelchair rugby gave me a chance to get fit and active and it gave me back some of the camaraderie that I felt when I was in the forces.
“Sport is such a powerful tool for showing that anything is possible. The children who take part in this fantastic programme have challenges to overcome but I’m living proof that you can achieve anything if you out your mind to it.”
Hebden Green School caters for students with a broad range of physical disabilities, medical needs and associated learning difficulties, making it the ideal partner for Sharks and the In the Pack programme.
The school’s community coordinator Faye Bye said: “It was fantastic to welcome the Sale Sharks Community Trust to the school.
“The impact of this programme has been wide ranging for our youngsters; helping them to experience an inclusive sport, helping them to develop new social and sporting skills, bringing out their competitive streaks and proving that they can achieve anything.
“Some of the pupils are quiet around the school but then were demanding the ball at every opportunity when they started playing rugby. We can’t wait to watch Sharks play soon and working with the trust again in the future.”
For more information on Sale Sharks Community Trust programmes, visit http://www.salesharks.com/community.
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