23 Apr 2024


A New Zealand Wheelchair Rugby League competition could boost the sport’s strength and footprint in the Southern Hemisphere ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

At the last Rugby League World Cup in England in 2022, it was notable that New Zealand, one of the top three rugby league nations, did not field a wheelchair team.

However, New Zealand is strongly motivated to be part of the next big international showpiece, with many of the elements needed for local competitions planned to fall into place this year. 

Growth plans and award-winning programmes

The immediate vision for New Zealand Wheelchair Rugby League is to encourage more Kiwis to develop skills and introduce the sport to communities around New Zealand. The Warriors Community Foundation is facilitating the organisation’s programme, which is supported by Disability Sport Auckland.  

Warriors Community Foundation CEO Lincoln Jefferson is focused on upskilling more Kiwis with wheelchair rugby league moves by expanding the popular programme that received the Disability Sport Auckland 2023 Programme of the Year award last November.  

A special event last year also saw the Warriors Community Foundation combining with the New Zealand Rugby League, Auckland Rugby League, Counties Manukau Rugby League and Disability Sport Auckland.

“We need to get everyone else involved in collaborations around the table. We can take what we have developed in Auckland to other New Zealand areas,” Jefferson said.

NZ Warriors and Disability Sport Auckland support  

Backing from the Warriors is invaluable for the sport’s growth in New Zealand. Players including Ruben Wiki, Shontayne Hape and Charlotte Scanlan have also been involved in introducing WRL to New Zealand.


Ruben Wiki and Charlotte Scanlan are supporting the growth of wheelchair rugby league in New Zealand (NZ Warriors)

Jefferson says he can envisage a future in which the One New Zealand Warriors have a dedicated wheelchair team.

Disability Sport Auckland is steering the skills development of new wheelchair rugby league players and officials.

Yann Roux, the CEO of Disability Sport Auckland, was aware of the wheelchair game’s popularity in France due to the international standing of his home country’s team.

“The Auckland programme was successful last year," he said. "It puts us on the right pathway to develop wheelchair rugby league. We are keen to go from a monthly to a weekly programme and develop WRL around the country – initially in locations like Wellington and Christchurch, which already have facilities and support.”

WRL Australia lending a helping hand

To further develop the game in New Zealand, representatives from the Australian wheelchair rugby league community have been engaged to work alongside local coordinators to provide support and guidance relating to WRL participation programmes, including game development and game education programmes.


Wheelaroos father and son, Cory (left)and Craig Cannane (right)

This support has already seen a set of dedicated WRL jerseys being shared in late 2023, kindly donated by the NQWRL community, with additional NRL wheelchair equipment soon to arrive in Auckland for 2024 programmes.

Local programme coordinators and volunteers in Auckland and beyond can now access NRL wheelchair education and training modules. They will also have opportunities to work with assigned mentors in Australia to develop their practice, including Australian coaches, referees and sports trainers with international experience at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. 

The Wheelchair Rugby League Australia (WRLA) board welcomes recent developments in New Zealand.

“We are keen to assist the growth of the wheelchair rugby league in New Zealand.  The benefits of having a local international competitor will also go a long way to strengthening the sport in the greater Pacific region,” WRLA chair Martin Meredith said.

Want to get involved?

Please contact NRL Wheelchair if you can assist with the development of wheelchair rugby league in New Zealand as a supporter, sponsor, or volunteer. 

We can collaborate to develop regular and accessible programmes for participants throughout New Zealand. 

Establishing sustainable community programmes could lead to WRL pathways programmes, giving New Zealand WRL players opportunities similar to those in the running version of rugby league.