NSW Wheelchair Rugby League star Brad Grove has been named Australia’s Wheelaroos captain for November’s World Cup.
Canberra Raiders’ Grove is one of the four survivors of the 2017 World Cup squad and one of six of Australia’s last Test game in 2019 before the COVID travel disruption.
Grove will be joined by Queensland’s Peter Arbuckle as vice-captain of the 12-man team.
Wheelaroos coach Brett Clark has also selected a management team to relieve Grove and Arbuckle as Australia look to win the World Cup at the end of the Eight Nations tournament.
“I wanted them to be captain and vice-captain to the best of their ability and didn’t want to burden them with other responsibilities like keeping the team under control,” Clark said, with Shaun Harre (Qld), Zac Schmacher (Qld) and Craig Cannane (NSW).
The Wheelaroos are split evenly between six NSW and six Queenslanders – all playing in both State of Origin games won by the Maroons this year (50-30 in January and 49-24 in July).
Clark said he was concerned about team cohesion given the passion and aggression of both State teams during Origin.
“There’s obviously bragging rights and I’m sure the Queenslanders will give it to the NSW lads a bit like they’ve received in previous beatings from the Blues,” he said.
“But from the effort that brought the win to those licking their wounds, you get that combined passion and urge to really excel.
“There was some division between the two[states]early on, but we have a great balance of veteran blood and younger generation players and that brought them together.
“Overall, they have grown together very strongly.”
The Wheelaroos depart on October 24th with the first game against hosts England on Friday November 4th.
But Clark has scheduled three friendlies: the British Army team, Wales in Cardiff (the first wheelchair rugby league game to be played in the Welsh capital) and Scotland.
Wales, Scotland, France and the United States are in Group B for the World Cup, while Australia is in Group A with England, Ireland and Spain.
Queensland Origin manager Jack Brown is one of England’s best players.
“I will not ask Jack to contribute to the England team even though he knows our abilities,” Clark said.
“I’m not a coach who overanalyzes what another team is doing. I want us to play our game, not play their game. If we always try to counter an opponent’s game plan, we will not find our identity.
“The Wheelaroos created a type of football that is tough, fast and strong. It’s aggressive and pushy, but not unsportsmanlike.”
The wheelchair rugby league is played over two 40-minute halves, with the same score being awarded as the running game. The “playing field” is 50 meters long and 25 meters wide and extends over three indoor basketball courts.
The rules are similar – players must pass backwards, possession changes after six tackles. A “tackle” is performed by ripping off an opposing player’s Velcro shoulder tag, similar to Monarch Blues tag.
Kicks down, conversions, penalties and field goals are scored by hand. A play-the-ball is made by tapping the soccer ball on the ground before the pass.
Australia: Peter Arbuckle (Queensland), Cory Cannane (New South Wales), Craig Cannane (New South Wales), Richard Engles (New South Wales), Brad Grove (New South Wales), Shaun Harre (Queensland), James Hill (Queensland), Diab Karim (New South Wales), Liam Luff (New South Wales), Bayley McKenna (Queensland), Zac Schumacher (Queensland), Adam Tannock (Queensland).