Introduction

Wheelchair Rugby was developed in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1976, as a quadriplegic equivalent to wheelchair basketball.

Wheelchair rugby is an intense, physical team sport for male and female athletes with quadriplegia (tetraplegia).

The sport was originally called “Murderball” due to the aggressive nature of the game. It is a contact sport where collisions between wheelchairs form a major part of the game.

Each team has four players on court and the aim is to score by carrying the ball across the goal line.
Australia is currently ranked no. 1 in the world by the International Rugby Federation.

How to PLAY WHEELCHAIR RUGBY

Wheelchair rugby is played indoors on a hard floor court with the same measurements as a basketball court (28 metres long by 15 metres wide).

The aim is to score goals by crossing the opposing team’s goal line while in possession of the ball. The goal line is situated on the base line of the court and is 8 metres wide. In order for the goal to be counted two wheels of the wheelchair must be across the goal line.

A volleyball is used and may be passed, thrown, battled, rolled, dribbled, or carried in any direction subject to the restrictions laid down in the rules. Kicking the ball is not allowed.

When a player is in possession of the ball, it must be bounced at least once every 10 seconds.
Wheelchair rugby is played in eight-minute quarters.

Basic Rules of WHEELCHAIR RUGBY

Please click here to download the Rule Book from International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) that is used at national/international events.

Who can play Wheelchair Rugby

Impairment Type

To be eligible to play Wheelchair Rugby, individuals must have a disability which affects the arms and legs. Most players have spinal cord injuries with full or partial paralysis of the legs and partial paralysis of the arms. Other disability groups who play include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, amputations, polio, and other neurological conditions. Men and women compete on the same teams and in the same competitions. 

Classification

Every wheelchair rugby player is classified based on their disability and undergo a bench test and functional skills test. Each player is given a points value after these tests which will range from 0.5 (lowest) to 3.5 (highest). The four players on court for a wheelchair rugby team must not exceed a total of 8 points.

The following is a very basic description of the functionality of players in each class level and what the role would be in a wheelchair rugby team. Credit: IWRF website

Class 0.5
Typical role on court Main role is as blocker, not a major ball handler
Chair skills/function
  • Because of extensive proximal shoulder weakness and lack of triceps function forward head bob present when pushing

  • Because of lack of triceps, pulls on back part of the wheel for push stroke using biceps by bending elbows; elbows are also out to side when pushing (called an “unopposed biceps push”)

  • Because of wrist extensor weakness and lack of other wrist and hand function, may use forearm on wheel for starts, turns and stops
Ball skills/function
  • Because of proximal shoulder weakness, arm and wrist weakness, traps direct passes on lap or bats it in from limited range

  • Bats ball using “underhand volleyball pass” for longer range pass or for shorter range pass uses “scoop pass” with the ball forward to the side uses a two-hand toss
Class 1.0
Typical role on court Blocker, may in-bound ball, not a major ball handler
Chair skills/function
  • Because of proximal shoulder weakness and triceps weakness, may have slight head bob when pushing, but has a longer push on wheel (combination of push and pull on back part of wheel)

  • Because of increased strength in upper chest and shoulders, multidirectional start, stop and turn (Can turn in all directions without stopping; easier and faster turning than 0.5 athlete; but because of triceps and wrist weakness, 1.0 athlete may still use forearm)
Ball skills/function
  • Forearm or wrist catch

  • Weak chest pass or forearm pass
Class 1.5
Typical role on court Excellent blocker and also may be occasional ball handler
Chair skills/function Increased shoulder strength and stability allows for more effective and efficient pushing ball handling skills
Ball skills/function
  • Increased shoulder strength and stability allows for some distance and consistency to chest pass

  • Typically has wrist imbalance that causes limited ball security when passing

  • May have asymmetry present in arms. If so, predominantly uses the stronger arm for chair and ball skills
Class 2.0
Typical role on court Increasing role on court as ball handler
Chair skills/function Typically has very strong and stable shoulder that allows for good pushing speed on court
Ball skills/function
  • Effective chest pass with control over moderate distance

  • Because of lack of finger flexion, there is limited ball security against defense during passing

  • Can hold the ball with wrists firmly, but does not have hand function
Class 2.5
Typical role on court Ball handler and fairly fast playmaker
Chair skills/function
  • Because of excellent shoulder strength and stability will see good pushing speed on court

  • Functional grip is used to advantage on the pushrim when challenged

  • May have some trunk control giving better stability in the chair
Ball skills/function
  • Reasonably balanced finger flexion and extension without true grasp and release

  • Dribbles the ball safely, but supinates forearm to scoop the ball onto the lap

  • Due to finger flexion strength capable of performing one-handed overhead pass, but limited accuracy and distance because of imbalance in finger strength

  • Safe two handed catching of passes, usually scooping ball to lap. May catch passes single handed and scoop to lap or chest

  • Improved ball security compared to 2.0 hand due to improved ability to isolate wrist/finger function

  • May have asymmetrical arm or hand function, noticeable with chair and ball handling skills
Class 3.0
Typical role on court Very good ball handler and fast playmaker
Chair skills/function
  • Because of balanced finger function, athlete can grip wheelchair rim increasing pushing speed

  • May have some trunk control giving better stability in the chair
Ball skills/function
  • Because of function in fingers, can control ball in varying planes of movement for passing, dribbling, catching and protecting ball during these activities

  • Can dribble and pass ball well with one hand

  • Multiple dribble one handed with control

  • Stabilizes with the opposite arm to allow greater reach (if the athlete has no trunk function)
Class 3.5
Typical role on court Major ball handler and very fast playmaker. Often primary ball handler and playmaker on team
Chair skills/function Has some trunk function, therefore very stable in wheelchair and able to use trunk for ball and chair skills
Ball skills/function
  • Because of combination of hand and trunk function, usually has excellent ball control with controlled one hand passing for distance and excellent ball security during passing and receiving

  • May have asymmetrical arm or hand function, noticeable with chair and ball handling skills

How Do I Get Classified?

To determine an athlete’s class, classifiers observe athletes as they perform a variety of these movements. Firstly, classifiers test athletes’ limbs for strength, flexibility, sensation, and muscle tone; and athletes’ trunks (abdominal and back muscles) for balance, ability to bend over and rise up and the ability to rotate to both sides (in combination with leg function, if present). The athlete is then observed performing both ball handling and wheelchair skills prior to game play and during game play, if necessary.  In addition, the athlete’s execution of ball and wheelchair handling skills are observed on court during actual game play (IWRF).

In order to be classified for wheelchair rugby you should first contact the peak disability sports organization in your state or territory. For the full list of organizations in Australia see ‘Who Runs the Sport’ section. They will be able to help you find a local classifier who can give you an initial, provisional classification and will also be able to direct you to any local wheelchair rugby competitions in your area.

Get Involved

Wheelchair Rugby is a fast paced, full contact sport for male and female quadriplegics looking to get involved in a team sport. A pathway exists for participants to compete at all levels from local competitions to representing their state at national competitions and possibly even on to international competitions such as World Championships and Paralympics so why not get involved?

Where Is it Played

Every state has a local wheelchair rugby program which is open to players of all skill levels. To start playing  contact your state affiliation listed in “Who Runs The Sport”.

Athlete Pathway

Players start by joining their local club and doing a developmental program. Talented players are then selected to represent their club and participate in local and state competitions. Each state’s association selects their team to compete in the National Championships. The Australian Paralympic Committee is responsible for selecting the team to represent Australia in the Paralympic and World Championships.

To find out more about the competition pathway please the state office listed below under “Who runs the Sport”.

Become an Official

Please refer to the document IWRF Pathway to becoming a Referee 

Become a Classifier

There are two types of classifiers, medical and technical. The following prerequisites are required to be eligible for classifier training:

Medical classifiers: Currently registered medical professional (physiotherapist or medical doctor); with minimum 5 years clinical experience with people with physical disabilities. It is an advantage to have a background in rugby or classifying wheelchair sports.

Technical classifiers: Must hold a Bachelor or Master degree in sport science/ kinesiology / human movement science or other equivalent; and rugby experience.

It is crucial that classifiers have a strong understanding of wheelchair rugby. To ensure this, candidates must have experience in rugby either as a participant, volunteer, coach or administrator.

To find out more about the classifier pathway contact the Australian Paralympic Committee via email auspara@paralympic.org.au or phone +61 2 9704 0500.

Become a Volunteer

Wheelchair rugby is only made possible through the help of our dedicated volunteers. It is a fast-paced, tactical game that is invigorating to watch. Volunteering is fun, easy and extremely flexible. Spend a couple of hours operating a fierce event and make an athlete’s dream come true! Please submit an enquiry form on our Contact Us page to volunteer.

events

State

Please contact your state office (listed in “Who Runs The Sport” section below) for details about up-coming state and local competitions.

UPCOMING NATIONAL EVENTS

UpCOMING International EVENTS

Who Runs the Sport?

Australia

Disability Sports Australia
P: +61 2 8736 1220
E: wheelchairrugby@sports.org.au

State / Territories

New South Wales

Wheelchair Sports NSW
Contact: Mark Wilson
P: +61 2 9809 5260
http://wsnsw.org.au/sports/rugby/

Queensland

Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association
P: +61 7 3253 3333
mailbox@sportingwheelies.org.au
http://www.sportingwheelies.org.au/

South Australia

Disability Recreation and Sports SA
P: +61 8 8234 1533
admin@drssa.org.au
http://www.drssa.org.au/

Victoria

Disability Sport and Recreation
P: +61 3 9473 0133
http://www.dsr.org.au/

Western Australia

ReboundWA (formerly Wheelchair Sports Association WA)
+61 8 6143 5800
admin@wheelchairsportswa.org.au
http://www.wheelchairsportswa.org.au

International

International Wheelchair Rugby Federation
http://www.iwrf.com/

Paralympic 

Australian Paralympic Committee
P: +61 2 9704 0500
auspara@paralympic.org.au
http://www.paralympic.org.au/sports/wheelchair-rugby

Get in Contact

Disability Sports Australia
P: +61 2 8736 1220
E: wheelchairrugby@sports.org.au
Contact Us enquiry form

Videos

IWRF Video gallery - IWRF website has a video gallery which includes videos of full length games, feature stories from around the world and introductory videos on various skills    

Intro to Wheelchair Rugby from Australian Paralympic Committee

Resources

International Rules from the IWRF

Classifier Pathway from the IWRF

Table Officials Manual from the IWRF

Referee Pathway from the IWRF