RugbyUnited Guest Blog….Murderball

Posted: July 13, 2012 in Rugby Union
Tags: , , , ,

I was asked this week, by former Guest blogger Clare Rigney to see if i could do a blog/awareness drive on the paralympic sport of Wheelchair rugby. 

Its not an area i am an expert on, so i asked for help, and was instantly rewarded by being sent an article written by D’arcy Doran all about the sport.

Keep an eye on the #RugbyUnited hashtag, as we are working on getting a GB wheelchair rugby player to do a QA!

As this was an article written for a publication, i will give a taster, but i HIGHLY recommend that you check out the link to read the whole thing.

D’arcy can be found on twitter (@darcydoran) and has his own website ( so check him out there too!


A bang echoes through London’s cavernous Olympic basketball arena as one wheelchair rams into another. Britain’s Aaron Phipps has been hit by a Canadian defender, and for a split-second his left wheel hangs precariously in the air. Phipps spins into a 180. Escaping with the ball, he carves around another Canadian opponent who’s been expertly blocked by teammate Ross Morrison. Arms pounding like blades on a steam locomotive, he carries the ball across the court and over the goal line to score.

The guards on Phipps’ wheels are battered like comets; a history of hits, both taken and received. This is the world of wheelchair rugby – the Paralympics’ only full-contact sport and its fastest selling ticket. It’s also one of few sports where a welder stands by, ready to reassemble the Mad Max-style wheelchairs that provide a second skin for the athletes battling it out on the court. Originally called murderball, the sport was invented by Canadian quadriplegics who were frustrated because they couldn’t play wheelchair basketball. It became a Paralympic sport in 2000. Played on a basketball court with four on a side, it’s a fast, high-scoring game that borrows from rugby, handball and ice hockey. All players are classified as quadriplegics. Some were born disabled, but most came to the game after an accident or illness knocked their lives sideways.

Britain – aka Team GB – has twice come heartbreakingly close to a medal after losing bronze medal matches in Beijing and Athens. At the London Games, the home team is determined to break that streak. This test event, in April, is a chance for Britain, Canada, Sweden and Australia to scuff up the Olympic basketball court, and for Team GB, ranked six in the world, to test their podium potential ahead of September’s Games. In Beijing, it was Canada that beat them in the bronze medal match. But today, Canada is struggling to handle one of the biggest additions to Team GB’s arsenal: No. 13, Aaron Phipps.

Dangerman. Man on fire. One-man wrecking machine. These are just a few of the names the announcer uses to describe Phipps in the hard-fought game against Canada. The deejay running the arena’s sound system, having picked up on the nickname bandied about by Phipps’ team mates, decides to play ‘Monster’ by Welsh band The Automatic each time he scores. The song plays forty-five times during the 63-62 win over Canada.

Upon entering the murderball world, players effectively get a number stamped on their forehead based on how much of their body works. The system is based on a five-point scale. Someone with no injury would be a five and someone completely paralysed would be a zero. Phipps is a 3.5, the highest classification allowed to play wheelchair rugby. The number means his spine has not been broken, but his four limbs are damaged. For others, the higher the break is up their spine, the less they can use their body and the lower their classification.

These numbers are crucial in the game because the combined points of the four players on the court cannot exceed eight. For every player like Phipps, a team needs someone like Team GB’s Jonny Coggan – a 0.5 nicknamed ‘The Silent Assassin’ for his knack of sneaking up on and stopping higher-classified players. Or Mike Kerr – a 1.5 who brings the streets of Glasgow to his game with an aggressive style that gets him knocked on his back often but also produces spectacular goals

The game often draws people in just as they are coming out of rehabilitation. After being surrounded by tenderness and caution, the sports’ aggression and fearlessness is, for many, a welcome antidote. Team GB’s Kylie Grimes, whose career as a horse show jumper ended after a swimming pool diving accident, first saw the game while she was still in the spinal unit. She remembers the feeling of slipping into a rugby chair for the first time. “I felt like I could do things again,” says the twenty-four-year-old. “You feel the hits all the way up your legs and into your head.” A 0.5, she is one of a handful of women competing at the international level. The men give her no breaks because she’s a woman, she says, adding “and I wouldn’t want them to.”

The full article can be found at, as i say, i have only used a few snippets from the article.


Thank you for giving us the piece D’arcy, it was a great read! and welcome to #rugbyunited! 😉



  1. Chris Puzey says:

    If you need a contact within the squad I know one of the guys ( via his wife and he’s probably be up for a Q&A session, or put you in touch with someone who could do it

    • hi Chris… i have passed on the name of 6 or 7 of the GB squad to the bods behind QA, but i think we will be holding off until after the paralympics, as we don’t want to interrupt their training at this stage! thanks anyhoo! i’m sure Nick and Lisa can make it happen!

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