What is Wheelchair Rugby?

Wheelchair rugby is a fast paced, full contact team sport for male and female quadriplegics (tetraplegics) looking to get involved in a team sport. 

The sport was originally called “Murderball” due to the aggressive nature of the game. It is a contact sport where collisions between wheelchairs form a major part of the game. Wheelchair rugby combines elements of rugby, basketball and handball. 

Men and women compete on the same teams and in the same competitions.  

Each team has four players on court and the aim is to score by carrying the ball across the goal line. 

Australia is currently ranked no. 1 in the world by the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation

To learn more about wheelchair rugby, check out the video below from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)!

History

Wheelchair rugby was started in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1976, as a quadriplegic equivalent to wheelchair basketball. Wheelchair rugby offered an alternative for athletes with reduced arm and hand function to participate equally. 

Wheelchair rugby was recognised as an official sport for athletes with a disability in 1993 with 15 countries competing. The same year, the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) was established. 

In 1994, wheelchair rugby was officially recognised as a Paralympic sport by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The following year, the first Wheelchair Rugby World Championships were held in Nottwill, Switzerland with 8 teams competing. In 1996, at the Atlanta Paralympic Games, wheelchair rugby was included as a demonstration sport with 6 teams competing. 

At the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, wheelchair rugby was recognised as a full medal sport for the first time. Since 2000, wheelchair rugby has been featured at every Paralympic Games. 

As of 2016, more than 40 countries actively participate in wheelchair rugby, through competition, development programs or for social recreation.

The first IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships were held in Nottwil, Switzerland, in 1995 where the Australian national team, the Steelers, competed internationally for the first time but failed to win a medal. In the following year, wheelchair rugby was demonstrated at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games in which the Australian team participated.

Wheelchair rugby was recognised as a full medal sport for the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney. The Australian team won Silver that year, but they have played at every Paralympics since with increasing success.

Australia has competed in every Paralympics, World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, and IWRF Asia-Oceania Championships since each competition was established.

Australia’s best result came at the 2014 World Championships in Odense, Denmark, winning the gold medal and the World Championship.

The Steelers are the current Paralympic championships, defeating the United States of America in the gold medal match at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.