Kate Banville, Townsville Bulletin - MAY 15th 2019
TOWNSVILLE’S best wheelchair rugby league players are gearing up for the Queensland State of Origin team trials happening at the end of May.
Zachary Schumacher took to the chair sport as an outlet from his injuries sustained during military service that resulted in 17 surgeries including three hip replacements.
“I was in a pretty dark place,” Mr Schumacher said.
“Sport is one of the best medications.”
The former transport private has a whole new outlook on life thanks to being back in a team environment.
“It (sport) gives us drive and purpose,” Mr Schumacher said.
“Plus, I don’t like losing.”
Mr Schumacher played his first Origin series in 2016 and is passionate about growing the game as an all-inclusive sport, particularly as an able-bodied player.
“We’re really trying to get rugby off the ground in Townsville,” Mr Schumacher said. “I play wheelchair basketball too but there’s more opportunity in rugby with the NRL support.”
Queensland State of Origin selectors are looking to fill the squad based on attitude, not playing experience.
Queensland Wheelchair Rugby League president Vakatini Atuahiva said we had the best quality of players to take on our southern competitors in Sydney in July.
“It’s that Queensland spirit,” Mr Atuahiva said.
“We’re looking for those people who give 110 per cent effort, skill doesn’t matter so much because it can be trained.”
The former Maori All Blacks rugby union player has a special place in his heart for the growing sport.
“I’ve had opportunities to promote health and wellbeing of people with disabilities in all my careers,” he said.
“It (wheelchair rugby) gives confidence to people with disabilities to see able bodies on the same court with them.”
Mr Atuahiva said the adaptive sport was changing the way people viewed wheelchairs and wanted them to be seen as a piece of sporting equipment, not something that was restrictive.
“The beauty of this sport is anyone can play,” he said.
“It’s a chance for family members of people with disabilities to share fun experiences together too.”
The Australian Wheelchair Rugby League team will be selected during the Origin series and take on the United Kingdom in Townsville in October.