Gravesend Dynamite! Disabled Rugby Club for All.
June 18 2021
Jason Owen is coach and founder of disabled rugby club the Gravesend Dynamite. Here he explains why he started the club why disabled rugby is so very special.
“I wish I could play rugby with my brother”
I was a coach at Gravesend rugby club. One day I saw a boy using a walking frame, watching his brother playing rugby. The boy was cheering his brother on, shouting “Yessss, great try. Brilliant!”. I then heard him say, “I wish I could play rugby with my brother.”
This sowed a seed in my head and in September 2013 a new club, Gravesend Dynamite was formed. An inclusive club where the two brothers could play alongside (and against) each other. Gravesend Dynamite has their usual weekly membership, but they have also offered taster sessions to over 3000 young people in schools and youth clubs. These sessions not only bring health benefits and develop confidence from trying something new but change people’s perceptions of disability.
Who can take part?
Our members vary from 7-year-olds to people in their 70’s. Some people that used to play rugby or other sports have given the club a go. These include people who can no longer participate on their legs because of age or injury or out of choice.
The main difference about this sport is the inclusivity. People often say that they can participate with their sister or dad or next-door neighbour or best mate. It is a social activity in a way that a lot of other sports, particularly competitive team sports don’t allow.
I enjoy seeing a level playing field, quite literally.
When everyone is in a chair, no one sees difference. Yes, we might be aware of a person’s individual disabilities but when people are in the chairs, no one really takes much notice of that.
Everyone is together.
We have had people playing who have epilepsy, autism, visual impairments, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, hearing impairments, ADHD, are single leg amputees. Some have physical disabilities, hidden disabilities, challenging impairments, mild impairments or no disability at all!
Everyone can play with and against each other. It is a unique sport.
But wheelchair rugby is no easy option. Yes, it can be great fun and very social – but players can reach the level they want to with sustained effort. The crashes and smashes as people evolve with their skills and confidence are great to see. Two chairs coming together in a tackle looks and sounds fabulous but the chair generally takes all the impact.
Who runs it?
I have been the ever-stay presence within the club but I am supported by a fantastic team. Everyone is a volunteer, and no one takes any money out of the weekly club sessions. Ken Maloney is also a coach. Ken works for the NHS and enjoys working with beginners. People often make huge advances over the first few sessions and that’s really rewarding. He has also represented Ireland at wheelchair rugby league.
Even though Gravesend Dynamite has only been going for just over 8 years, the club has produced a number of international players. But reaching the highest level is not the only priority. They are firm believers in offering the sport and welcoming others to ‘try’ it. Whether you want to reach the top level and play for your country, get healthier through exercise, have some fun in sport, or just try something new and different, the club caters for all.
Who we play against
There are clubs throughout the country. Gravesend Dynamite are very proud of their work to develop wheelchair rugby. They offer the sport to schools, youth clubs as well as their members.
Our proudest achievements
The club has had international players and we’ve won national competitions like the Rugby league Challenge Trophy. Which we won by beating a strong Hull team in front of a large crowd in Sheffield.
The club is also supportive of other clubs. We have dedicated time and effort into other ventures which have resulted in more people getting involved in the sport.
We helped ignite another club and there are players that first tried rugby with us who are now playing at some other clubs. We’ve offered the sport to thousands of youngsters. We are excited that Dynamite is creating a positive legacy for the sport.
But I think our greatest achievement is seeing a squad list or register of weekly attendance and we have such a varied group of people within it. Family members, disabled and able bodied, male and female, hidden disabilities and physical disabilities, brothers, fathers and sons, sisters and brothers, children and adults and all these different people are taking part in the same session.
How you can take part
Gravesend Dynamite wheelchair rugby league team would like to welcome you!
Wheelchair rugby league is totally inclusive: males, females, youths, adults, children, disabled and able-bodied all participating together in sports wheelchairs (provided). Hidden disabilities, no disability, physical disabilities. Anyone!
The game replicates rugby league very well with passing back, scoring tries and even punching the ball off a raised tee for conversions.
Gravesend Dynamite would welcome anyone to come and give it a ‘try’. If you live too far away, get in touch and we can put you in touch with a club nearer to you.
Contact Gravesend Dynamite:
Or call 01474536501 (c/o Kasbah)
About Jason Owen
Jason Owen is the founder of Gravesend Dynamite Wheelchair Sports Club.
He was player coach of England wheelchair rugby 7’s. 1st cap v Italy away 2014. Player of Wales wheelchair rugby league. 1st cap v Scotland away 2015.
He previously played football with United (Hereford, not Manchester!) and is a qualified coach in 15 different sports, ranging from table tennis to rugby union, swimming to basketball!
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