Leeds Rugby Foundation Link
20 teams and over 150 adults and children with a disability came together this week (26th September) for the 16th annual Disability Tag Rugby Festival at John Charles Centre for Sport.
The festival run by Leeds Rhinos Foundation is open to ambulant children, young people and adults with a learning disability and/or moderate physical disability who can take part in tag rugby games against other organisations in the region.
Teams from Leeds as well as Doncaster made the trip to South Leeds Stadium for the event this year including a Primary school children from Allerton C of E School who took part in a mini coaching session alongside the tournament.
Organiser of the festival and Leeds Rhinos Foundation Disability Coordinator Chris Godfrey said:
“Building on the success of previous years we have over 20 teams now entering the event from both schools and adult groups across the city and wider. The tagline is the national tag rugby festival and we are getting there now, we’ve got teams from Doncaster, Huddersfield and surrounding areas so maybe we will get some teams from London next year you never know.”
Earlier in September Leeds Rhinos Foundation announced a new partnership to extend its disability delivery in the city to work with over 1000 adults from learning provider Aspire CBS, who sent teams from four of their centres in the city to the event.
“The more we can sort of meet people and work with Aspire and work with different people throughout Leeds obviously then the participation will increase but we can notice that there is a slight in skill but more than anything there is great appreciation of the sport and everybody seems to be having a good time and just because maybe they feel more comfortable playing it but everyone is definitely having a good time,” added Godfrey.
The festival also provided many of the specialist inclusive learning centres in the city with the chance to take part with 10 teams enjoying the junior fixtures on the day and the chance to meet Leeds Rhinos young stars Mikolaj Oledski, Alex Sutcliffe and Josh Jordan-Roberts, who met players and presented medals and certificates at the event.
Hunslet born Mikolaj Oledski said:
“Not just with rugby and sport, it’s important that everyone has the opportunity to achieve and be the best they can be and it’s important that Leeds Rhinos get involved with things like this because it really means a lot to the individuals.”
“It’s huge that the Rhinos can work with organisations like Aspire and Active Leeds and it’s great that there is more and more going on that gets everyone involved in sport.
“Seeing some of the faces of the participants today it can melt your heart because you can see how much passion and effort they have put into their performances today.”
Leeds Rhinos mascot Ronnie the Rhino also made an appearance on the day and was a particular hit with the younger age groups.
“We have had Ronnie with us today, there are a lot of young players here and they were overwhelmed with Ronnie being here and jumping with joy, but I think it’s good to get players involved with stuff like this because it makes the fans feel like they are part of the Rhinos and it’s great to socialise with people that are as passionate about the club as we are,” added Oledski.
With one of the biggest turnouts for the event in its history, the sky is the limit for Chris and Leeds Rhinos Foundation, who will be looking to grow the event in years to come.
“This festival is a shining pinnacle of what we do throughout the year, in past years we have worked with the SILC schools around Leeds, via the Active Schools Programme, and now we are working consistently with the adult groups with Aspire CBS and the partnership we have got going with them and you can just see straight away the more people we get to engage with the bigger the tournament grows and the more fun is had, but also just the love of our sport, it gets spread out to an audience that doesn’t always get to experience it so it’s been brilliant and hopefully we can keep growing it every year and get bigger and bigger.”