The Gold Coast Titans Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) team have completed their inaugural season of exhibition games as undefeated champions.
Although there is currently no formal PDRL competition in Queensland, the Titans organised a season of one-off exhibition games for their PDRL team to play this year against local teams, international teams and even a team full of former NRL stars.
The team played their final game of that season against Northern United Invitational team at the Lismore Aboriginal Knockout Carnival last week, which the players enthusiastically dubbed their “grand final”.
The Titans PDRL team prevailed with a 28-10 win, keeping their perfect season intact.
The season of exhibition games was a great leap forward in terms of the Titans PDRL team becoming an established physical disability rugby league team once a formal competition is established in Queensland.
The hope would be to establish a competition much like the one that exists in New South Wales.
Earlier this year, the Titans pledged $30,000 to kickstart a ‘leagueability’ competition next year, which their PDRL team could play in along with a Brisbane Broncos PDRL side and with teams from the NSW Northern Rivers and existing teams from Ipswich, Wynnum Manly and Souths Logan.
Physical Disability Rugby League allows people living with disabilities to actively take part and compete in rugby league.
PDRL is all about inclusivity, and anyone from teenagers to men in their 40s can play together in the same team.
Participation in PDRL is growing rapidly in Australia and England, giving more people the opportunity to play the sport every year.
The Titans PDRL team have been able to overcome all their opponents so far, including a legends team with a line-up of former Titans NRL stars, such as Preston Campbell, Clinton Toopi and Nathan Friend.
Another courageous win came against a travelling Wakefield Trinity PDRL side from England.
The match was played as a curtain raiser to an NRL game and was a great illustration of the inclusivity of the PDRL program.
Titans PDRL coach Craig Wallace said he was proud of the team’s performances this year and of their determination to win.
“The boys were pumped to play every chance they got,” Wallace said.
“They were treating the last game like a grand final, and they really wanted to win and finish unbeaten,” he said.
“Everyone involved really bought it and we all had a lot of fun.”
Mitch Gleeson captained the Australian PDRL team against England in an international game and is now a key member of the Titans team.
Gleeson said it meant a lot to him and the other members of the team to be able to play physical disability rugby, as each of them had been told by doctors and other people at various times in their lives that they wouldn’t be able to play any sport.
Gleeson was diagnosed with meningococcal at a young age and wasn’t able to participate in physical disability rugby league until he was 12.
He said he had always loved rugby league and had never considered his disability to be a barrier that would stop him from playing the game.
“We’ve all been told ‘no’, by doctors and everyone,” Gleeson said.
“They all said ‘no, you can’t do that’, but this just shows that we can, and I’m so grateful for it,” he said.
“It’s a great feeling to be part of a team and be active.
“The Titans have been great in growing the PDRL and it will keep growing with their support.”
Titans CEO Steve Mitchell is a huge supporter of the PDRL.
Mitchell said he was inspired by the players’ attitude and performances, and wanted to see them enter a full competition.
“We are so lucky to have the PDRL guys at our club,” he said.
“They inspire everyone here, even the NRL players.”
“They capture the imagination of rugby league fans everywhere for their love for the game.”