Tanisha Stanton NRL Reporter Thu 30 May 2019, 03:01 PM
As one of few wheelchair rugby league nations in the southern hemisphere, Australia's Wheelaroos are relishing their three-Test series against England in October.
After the 2017 World Cup the Australian side are ranked third overall, with France on top and England second.
Wheelchair Rugby League Australia Chairman Martin Meredith believes the two-week series will be an excellent test for the Wheelaroos to see where they're at heading into the 2021 World Cup.
The games have been scheduled for Townsville, Sydney, Brisbane and Wollongong.
"We don't often get the opportunity to play international footy, with most countries that play being in the northern hemisphere so we jumped at the chance to play England when they contacted us earlier in the year," Meredith said.
"We participated in world cup in 2017 in France and it showed that France and England are a little bit in front of us.
"We need that international exposure and I think it will be a great experience for our players to participate at the next level."
The Wheelchair and Rugby League World Cups will be run concurrently for the first time for both men and women.
"We're really pleased that our athletes have the opportunity to now play on the same stage," Meredith said.
"In the past, it's always been a different format so it's a wonderful opportunity for our game to be inclusive and welcome our wheelchair athletes to play in the same World Cup.
"The men and women that play are so inspiring and we want to showcase their talent with as many people as possible. I’m in awe of what they do and how they do it."
Wheelchair rugby league kick-started in Australia in 2008 and has developed programs in NSW and Queensland.
An interstate challenge will take place at the end of July, along with a tournament where NSW City take on NSW Country.
The Australian team are also currently in discussions with England regarding a precursor tournament in 2020 - 12 months out from the 2021 World Cup.
Looking forward to the future, Meredith and Wheelchair Rugby League Australia have high hopes of expanding their reach by introducing more stated-based programs, as well as an international program.
"In the future we would like to see a national program here in Australia, along with programs in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.
"We've done some work in Darwin and Melbourne but we probably need to have competitions and programs in each of those capital cities. And once we have programs in each of those states we may be able to implement regional programs.
"It would be great to have these programs in place and be able to select our national team from there."