Home tournament a bonus for locals

ParaFed Otago is set to host a national wheelchair rugby tournament for the first time.

The tournament will be held on March 19 and 20 next year, and include players from around New Zealand.

ParaFed Otago sports development officer Kelly Nooy was thrilled the organisation’s bid was accepted.

Not only was it a great way to showcase the sport to Dunedin, it would also ease some of the financial pressure put on the Otago team when it travelled to other regions, she said.

Players’ families would also be able to watch them in action.

‘‘A lot of the tournaments are in the North Island in regions like Tauranga and Palmerston North, which [takes] two flights to get there.

‘‘That can be a bit of a barrier, so this means that those who may not have chosen to go away because of costs have the opportunity to play in their home region.’’

The tournament would kick-start the wheelchair rugby season.

She expected about 30-40 players to take part.

Once they registered, they would be split into random teams with a mixture of other players from around the country.

Since the wheelchair rugby community was so tight-knit, it was a great way for everyone to reconnect, Nooy said.

‘‘It allows the new ones coming through to meet everybody,’’ she said.

Wheelchair rugby was a growing sport in Dunedin, and the core group of players were good at recruiting new members, Nooy said.

The Otago team was ‘‘stoked’’ to hear it had won the hosting rights and many members were keen to get involved.

‘‘They were all really excited to be part of it.

‘‘A lot will help with the organisation of it as well.’’

If they did a good job, she hoped it would lead to Otago hosting more tournaments in the future.

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