Sported member, Darlington Mowden Park (DMP) Bulls is wheelchair rugby club based in Sedgefield. We catch up with Club Secretary Shaun Lacey to find out more.
Tell us about DMP Bulls, how did the club come about?
“I was in the local spinal injury centre after a serious swimming pool accident and it was there I met a few other guys who had suffered similar spinal injuries. We all fancied playing wheelchair rugby but there were no teams in the North East. So we got together and started the Bulls (originally under the name North East Bulls). We are still the only wheelchair rugby team in the North East. The nearest other teams would be down in Leeds, Southport or Scotland.
The game has moved on a lot since we first started. It used to be played predominantly by people with spinal injuries, but now it’s opened up to all types of disabilities.”
What were your biggest challenges starting the club?
“Initially it was finding a central indoor venue, because we were quite scattered across the North East, but then it was finding the specialist sport chairs and learning to play the game!
We’re still quite a small club, only about 14-15 members. We saw a big spike in interest following the London 2012 Paralympic Games, but we’re always on the look-out for new players and trying to raise the profile of wheelchair rugby in the region.
We encourage anyone to come along and give it a try. It’s a mixed sex and mixed age sport – our youngest members are 13 and 14 years old.”
Aside from the physical benefits of playing wheelchair rugby, what are the other benefits of being part of the club?
“Having a major spinal injury is very traumatic. After such an event it’s easy to get yourself down and start thinking ‘There’s not a lot of things I can do with my life now’. But you come along to a club like the Bulls and see lads and lasses with similar injuries who are just getting on with their lives…living independently, working, driving, travelling, playing sports, in relationships…all the type of things you think might not be possible. So the club’s fantastic in that respect.
We train hard, but also have fun as well. There’s a great social side to it. We’ve travelled all over the world watching rugby – a few of us went out to Rio – and have played all over Europe. Playing wheelchair rugby doesn’t just build your physical strength, it helps your mental health as well.”
What’s next for the club?
“Funding’s still a big issue, as the chairs are expensive. We have regular league weekends, so we need to cover transport and accommodation costs. There are also the general day-to-day costs associated with running the club, like chair maintenance and repairing punctures. As well as funding, it’s trying to get more people playing the sport and involved in the club. We do regular demos in colleges and schools to be seen and let people have a go. We’re also looking for volunteers to come along and help. For example getting the chairs ready and helping people in and out of the chairs.”
DMP Bulls train at Sedgefield Community College. If you are interested in getting involved, whether it’s playing, volunteering or sponsoring, please click HERE for more info.