Cowichan Alive

Your guide to beautiful Cowichan Living

Wheelchair Rugby At Its Best!

The Event- On the second Sunday in June, in downtown Duncan the tournament happens. Teams of 3 or more people (one must be female), play short games of wheelchair rugby. Players have their hands covered and taped. Rugby wheelchairs are provided by the organization.

A team is not allowed to have more than three players on court at any one time. A player with possession of the ball must bounce or pass the ball to other members of his/her team. Physical contact between wheelchairs is permitted, and forms a major part of the game. The winners then move up on to the next level of tournament play.


Wheelchair rugby, (known as quad rugby in the United States), is a team sport for athletes with a disability. It is currently practiced in over twenty countries around the world and is a Paralympic sport.  Developed in Canada in 1977, the sport's original name was murderball. The United States name of quad rugby is based on the fact that all wheelchair rugby players need to have disabilities that include at least some loss of function in at least three limbs - most are medically classified as quadriplegic. The rules include elements of wheelchair basketball, ice hockey, handball and rugby union. It is a contact sport and physical contact between wheelchairs is an integral part of the game. It has little in common with Rugby football except for the name.



Wheelchair rugby's roots go back to wheelchair basketball and ice hockey. It was created in 1976 by Jerry Terwin, Duncan Campbell, Randy Dueck, Paul LeJeune and Chris Sargent, five Canadian wheelchair athletes in Winnipeg, Manitoba to be a sport for persons with quadriplegia. At that time, wheelchair basketball was the most common team sport for wheelchair users. That sport's physical requirement for players to dribble and shoot baskets relegated quadriplegic athletes, with functional impairments to both their upper and lower limbs, to supporting roles. The new sport — originally called murderball due to its aggressive, full-contact nature — was designed to allow quadriplegic athletes with a wide range of functional ability levels to play integral offensive and defensive roles.

Murderball was introduced to the United States in 1981 by Brad Mikkelsen. With the aid of the University of North Dakota's Disabled Student Services, he formed the first American team, the Wallbangers. The first North American competition was held in 1982. In the late 1980s, the name of the sport outside the United States was officially changed from Murderball to Wheelchair Rugby. In the United States, the sport's name was changed to Quad Rugby.

The first international tournament was held in 1989 in Toronto, Canada, with teams from Canada, the United States and Great Britain. In 1990, Wheelchair Rugby first appeared at the World Wheelchair Games as an exhibition event, and in 1993 the sport was recognised as an official international sport for athletes with a disability by the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation (ISMWSF). In the same year, the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) was established as a sports section of ISMWSF to govern the sport.

The first IWAS World Wheelchair Rugby Championships were held in Nottwil, Switzerland, in 1995. Wheelchair rugby appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1996 Summer Paralympics in Atlanta, and was granted full medal status at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.

There are currently twenty-four active countries in international competition, with several others developing the sport. The current President of the IWRF is Brad Mikkelsen.


The 12th Annual Cowichan Wheels Rugby Tournament is June 11! 16 teams compete for the Duncan Lions Cup. Music by the McCandless Family Band, food by Jake's on the Road, ice cream truck and face painting! Proceeds all stay in the community helping local people with disabilities! Contact me if you want to enter a team, watch or donate! Fun for everyone!

This year's winners:

Great Big Woo Hoo! to the Winners of this year's tournament! 
Cowichan Valley Bar Association! 
And to the following (sorry for any bad spelling of names)
Best Dressed - The March-ians
Team Sprit - Hilltop Dental
Male MVP - Jordan Dyke who pass it on to Carter!
Female MVP - Maddie Smith and Alex Hamilton from Hammertime!
Inspirational Player - Amy McDowell
Travor Laird Award - Renee Desautels
Volunteer of the Year - Shauna Clinging.

Raising money for:

Over 12 years Cowichan Wheels has raised money for:
A lift for the aquatic centre
Sails for the disabled sailing association 
Boardwalk at the Somenos Marsh
Parking spot at the Cowichan Sportsplex 
Chairs and equipment for the Cowichan Wheelchair Rugby Club
Bursaries for students with a disability or entering a related field 
Accessible swing for Centennial Park

Photos by Bob Vanderford of Bob Vanderford Photography

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