JOSEPH CHIDIAC RECEIVES LIFE MEMBERSHIP WHEELCHAIR RUGBY LEAGUE AWARD
Wheelchair Rugby League Australia (WRL) is proud to announce that Joseph Chidiac has been awarded life membership for services to the organisation.
Martin Meredith, Chairman of WRL congratulated Joseph on behalf of the Board commenting “Joseph’s passion for the sport has been the driving force behind its establishment and growth.
Regardless of his own personal challenges he has worked very hard to provide opportunity for others, with and without disability”.
Since the international sport was established, Joseph has formed strong ties with the National Rugby League, NSW Rugby League and their affiliates. As well as growing the sport across Australia the code has also fielded representative teams at international World Cups.
WRL Patron, John Ajaka, MLC, commended Joseph on his leadership and commitment to the game. “This is a well-deserved recognition and acknowledgement of Joseph’s role in establishing and growing the sport in Australia. As a former Minister for Disability Services, I have seen firsthand the difference that WRL plays in improving overall health and wellbeing
outcomes for people with disability and their families”.
This recognition comes at a time when the Wheelaroos ready themselves to represent Australia at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England, where for the first time, the wheelchair game will take equal ranking alongside the men’s and women’s games.
See attached background about Joseph’s involvement with WRL. Image attached Joseph and John Ajaka, MLC.
Media contact: Joanne Ryan, 0421 059 866
A lifelong passion for an equal playing field
Rugby League is a game that is built on hard work and sacrifice, so it is fitting that Joseph Chidiac’s dream for Wheelchair Rugby League started to take shape in 2008, the year that Australian Rugby League celebrated it’s centenary, acknowledging the efforts of the game’s pioneers and its future.
Wheelchair Rugby League had its debut in Australia as part of the Rugby League Festival of World Cups that featured the Men’s, Women’s, University, Police and Defence teams in international representative games played in Queensland and New South Wales in 2008.
As part of the Australian team’s preparation, and with no prior direct experience, Joseph was called in to coach a rookie team that did Australia proud.
After this success, he was determined to build on the momentum from the Rugby League Festival of World Cups and play his part in Rugby League history, doggedly working behind the scenes to ensure that people with disability and their families could not only play the game together but have a defined pathway to representative level.
Setting himself a personal challenge, Joseph had a series of meetings and phone calls with the National Rugby League (NRL), NSW Rugby League and the Rugby League International Federation, seeking their support and integration into the fold of mainstream rugby league in Australia and beyond.
Originally established as a state organisation in New South Wales, the organisation was broadened in recognition that it would be preferable to develop a national approach and in 2010 Wheelchair Rugby League was established and so was the first competition.
Further meetings and plans resulted in the NRL throwing support behind the Australian team in their bid for victory at the 2013 World Cup in England. The profile of the sport was raised during this time, providing a great springboard for its growth and development.
With competitions now established in New South Wales and Queensland and across other Australian states, the game continues its strength and reach. Plans for the Wheelaroos to play in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England are also underway.
The time and effort to establish and grow the sport in Australia as a volunteer cannot be adequately reflected in words. The physical, personal and organisational challenges that Joseph, a Manly Sea Eagles fan, has overcome to provide opportunities for others in the game that he loves is truly admirable.
In reflecting on the acknowledgement Joseph said “When I first started this journey the large majority of people said it wouldn’t work. 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”.