BT Super Series 1 16/17 Division 2: Why Wheelchair Rugby Should Have More Fans
'Murderball' by name, uncompromisingly brutal by nature: Sports Gazette outlines why fans and the media should watch wheelchair rugby more often.
There were absolutely no holds barred as eight teams did battle in the opening round of the 2016/17 Wheelchair Rugby BT Super Series 1 Division 2 in Walsall.
Canterbury Hellfire, coached by London 2012 TeamGB wheelchair rugby captain Steve Brown, stormed to top spot and maximum points.
After victories over Ospreys (52-20), Liverpool (52-33) and Crushers (66-16) in Pool A, Canterbury defeated Gloucester (58-29) to progress to the match for 1st/2nd place.
Joining them in the final were Burn, who had overcome the challenges posed by Yorkshire, Hawks and Gloucester in Pool B before a narrow 26-24 victory over Liverpool in the crossover fixture.
In a hotly contested and tight game, in which the lead switched hands numerous times, Hellfire edged a 42-40 win.
A fast, fierce and full-on sport, tickets for the wheelchair rugby have been in understandably high demand and even sold out at recent Paralympics.
But what causes real surprise is the lack of crowds at other matches and competitions in the four years between the Games.
This is especially shocking as this weekend you could see 20 matches for free!
So if you've never seen live wheelchair rugby before, why should you track down an event?
It's full contact and full throttle with players constantly smashing into one another and essentially trying to break their opponents.
Surely that alone is enough of a selling point?
The skill on show is truly phenomenal and deserves to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience more often.
From a sudden burst of pace to a well-weighted lob instantly switching defence to offence, a cheeky reverse spin to evade an opponent to intricate and slick build-up play - the word 'effortless' springs to mind time and time again.
Twisting and turning from one end of court to the other with goals aplenty, the players' energy, strength and stamina have to be applauded.
The steely determination and passion is clear to see in their eyes and, coupled with constant effort, they exhibit all the qualities a fan looks for from their team, irrespective of the sport.
If one of them is knocked down in a high-speed crash, they get straight back up and don't writhe around like overpaid footballers.
If they fall considerably behind, heads don't drop and there is no defeatist demise or attitude.
If it's played in a packed out stadium or a quiet sports hall with just friends and family present, the approach doesn't alter and the love of the game is still palpable.
Almighty thuds resonating around the sports hall, cheers of delight and astonishment as a players manoeuvre their way out of the tightest of spaces, the wheezing noise as a tyre is punctured and slowly deflates - wheelchair rugby is not only a spectacle to behold but also to hear.
Football managers are often credited with tactical genius but, given the reduced space, team size, time and budget, they could undoubtedly learn a thing or two from wheelchair rugby.
Knowing when to track back and when to just position your chair and block off an opponent, knowing when to charge forward and when to run down the clock - every spin of the wheels impacts the game.
Unity and a positive ethic are obvious in each group as the support team also ensure a slick operation, rushing on to replace tyres quicker than in the F1 pits.
So if watching a relentless, brutal, high scoring and exhilarating sport sounds exactly like your cup of tea, look no further than wheelchair rugby.
For a complete set of results from the weekend’s action and details on the upcoming games, check out www.gbwr.org.uk and make sure to follow @GBWRNews.