Back in 2020, Bolt Burdon Kemp was excited to announce our sponsorship with the Stoke Mandeville Maulers Wheelchair Rugby team. The Maulers are headed up by twice Paralympian, Bob O’Shea and experienced wheelchair rugby competitor, Ian Hosking, who between them have a combined experience of over 50 years within the sport of wheelchair rugby. Based at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the Birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, the team work closely with the National Spinal Injury Centre (NSIC) who are based next door, in encouraging newly injured people into sport.
Since 2020, our partnership has gone from strength to strength, with the team starting in 2016 with just the two of them. They now have a 3s (low point), 4s (the Paralympic version), 5s team and are in discussions about starting a junior team. We are proud to once again sponsor the team this year, enabling the club to continue training, add more equipment and provide support to the current and aspiring wheelchair rugby players.
Of course, the past three years have not been without their challenges. Wheelchair Rugby like all sports was severely impacted by the pandemic, with in-person training and matches grinding to a halt overnight. But the Maulers weathered the storm and have come back stronger with increased numbers of players; founder and coach Bob O’Shea being recognised by the Internal Paralympic Committee and granted the use of PLY after his name as well as being inducted into the Great British Wheelchair Rugby Hall of Fame (Congratulations Bob!) and team member Helen securing a place in the Women’s Team and winning 1st place at the European Championships 2023.
From day one, what has struck me about the Maulers is not just what amazing players they are (the stamina required for wheelchair rugby is immense), but how welcoming they are. I speak from personal experience as a supporter (tip – always bring jelly babies!) but also from speaking with new players to the team. Joining a team like the Maulers isn’t just about fitness and playing a sport. Of course that’s a big part of it, but it’s also about joining a community of people with lived experience. A community that can give you advice, share your frustrations and pick you up when you are down. It’s no exaggeration to say that for some of the players, joining a team like the Maulers can be life changing and to be able to play even a small part in that is a privilege.
I for one can’t wait to see what 2023 brings for the Maulers – Go Maulers!!!