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Grove named Wheelaroos captain for World Cup

NSW Wheelchair Rugby League stalwart Brad Grove has been named captain of the Australian Wheelaroos for November’s World Cup.

Grove, from Wests Tigers, is one of the four survivors from the 2017 World Cup side and one of six from the last time Australia played a Test match in 2019, before the COVID travel shutdown.

Grove will be joined by Queensland’s Peter Arbuckle as vice-captain of the 12-man squad.

Wheelaroos coach Brett Clark has also picked a leadership team to ease the burden on Grove and Arbuckle as Australia bids to hoist the World Cup at the end of the eight-nation tournament.

“I wanted them to be captain and vice-captain to the best of their ability and didn’t want to load them up with other responsibilities like keeping the team in check,” Clark said, with the leadership team to include Shaun Harre (Qld), Zac Schmacher (Qld), and Craig Cannane (NSW).

The Wheelaroos are evenly split with six NSW and six Queenslanders – all playing in both State of Origin matches this year, won by the Maroons (50-30 in January and 49-24 in July).

Clark said that considering the passion and aggression from both state teams during Origin he was mindful about team cohesion.

Craig Cannane is in the leadership squad for the Wheelaroos
Craig Cannane is in the leadership squad for the Wheelaroos

“There’s obviously bragging rights and I’m sure the Queenslanders will give it to the NSW guys a bit as they received it in previous beatings by the Blues,” he said.

“But from the effort that got the win to those who are licking their wounds, you get this combined passion and drive to really excel.

“There has been a bit of split between the two (states) early on but we’ve got a great balance of experienced blood and younger generation players and that’s brought them together.

“Overall they’ve come together very strongly.”

The Wheelaroos leave on 24 October with the first game against host nation England on Friday 4 November.

But Clark has lined up three trial games: the British Army team, Wales in Cardiff (the first Wheelchair Rugby League match 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.

The Queensland Origin coach, Jack Brown, is one of England’s chief players.

“I won’t be asking Jack for any input on the England team even though he knows what our skills set is,” Clark said.

“I’m not a coach who overanalyses what another team is doing. I want us to play our game and not us playing their game. If we’re always trying to counteract an opposition’s game plan, we’re not going to find our identity.

“The Wheelaroos have created a brand of football that’s hard, quick, heavy impact. It’s aggressive and in-your-face but it’s not unsportsmanlike.” 

Wheelchair Rugby League is played over two 40-minute halves, with the same points scoring as the running game. The ‘field of play’ is 50-metres in length and 25-metres wide, across three indoor basketball courts.

Rules are similar – players must pass backwards, possession changes after six tackles. A ‘tackle’ is made by ripping off the Velcro shoulder tag of an opposition player, similar to Monarch Blues Tag.

Kicks downfield, conversions, penalties and field goals are hand-punted. A play-the-ball is made by tapping the football on the ground before passing.

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).

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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