- Jarrod McGrouther
Wheelchair Rugby League aiming to feature in the west
Nathan Pentecost is well known in the Nepean community. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Nathan is an integral part of the Penrith Panthers Wheelchair Rugby League team and is also their club captain. He is considered an elite athlete in the sport, and his love for the game has sparked a passion to expand it, with the area of western Sydney firmly in his sights.
Photo: Nathan (third from left) with his Penrith Panthers Wheelchair Rugby League teammates
Planning for a western Sydney Wheelchair Rugby League competition is in it’s early stages, and with a heavy focus on expansion as well as getting juniors involved in the sport, the concept is an significant one.
Wheelchair Rugby League is fast paced and played on a basketball court. Much like the NRL equivalent, player must carry the ball into their oppositions in goal area to score a try. They have six tackles to do so and use tags or touches to make tackles. Passes need to go backwards and kicks in general play are also a feature of the game.
Importantly, during my conversation with Nathan, I learnt that Wheelchair Rugby League is an inclusive sport, meaning anyone can give it a go. Nathan, speaking about this unique attribute, believes it’s an important message that needs to be promoted.
“It’s important because it gives me and others the opportunity to play alongside friends and family.”
With five NRL clubs currently affiliated with Wheelchair Rugby League teams, the new league is hoping to provide depth in the playing ranks to continue the sports rise. The current competition is played at Menai, in the Sutherland Shire, so establishing a competition in the west is important for both growth and access to the sport.
Nathan is set to raise funds to help start the league, as he attempts another mammoth 100km Push-a-thon in Penrith. Set to travel the lengthy distance with laps around the Penrith Regatta Centre, and with the Men of League on board to assist, Nathan hopes to raise enough money to purchase 10 new wheelchairs to help start the new competition. July 29 and 30 are the event dates, with more information and fundraising contacts to come.
On a personal note, Nathan was recently selected in the New South Wales Wheelchair Rugby League team that did battle with Queensland in a State of Origin format. An initiative started last year, Nathan joined teammates for his second campaign, held in Brisbane over the weekend of 17-19 June. It was a two game series between the states and the selection was something Nathan was extremely proud of. In positive news, New South Wales proved too good for their northern counterparts, winning both games in impressive fashion. Congratulations to all involved.