Edinburgh Giants: Transforming Lives Through Inclusive Wheelchair Rugby
Sport can be more than just fun and games. Sport can transform lives, bringing us together and making us stronger. The Edinburgh Giants Wheelchair Rugby League (WHRL) Club is a great example of this.
A Brief History of Edinburgh Giants
The Edinburgh Giants WHRL Club emerged from the vision of Martyn Gill, a former coach of Leeds Rhinos WHRL and the English WHRL side. Martyn's first-hand experience of witnessing the transformative power of the sport on players' lives led to his desire to share this experience with the people of Edinburgh and its surrounding areas.
Forming a dedicated management group and leveraging connections across the UK, the Edinburgh Giants club was officially launched at the Edinburgh University Pleasance Sports Complex & Gym at the beginning of March 2023.
Since then, the club has conducted weekly training sessions and participated in eight matches throughout Scotland, gaining recognition in UK-wide rugby league publications and podcasts.
The club prides itself on its inclusivity. Edinburgh Giants celebrates each players’ unique attributes, and the team have open and honest conversations to ensure the club is achieving its purpose in the fairest and most inclusive way.
All players agree there's something special about the atmosphere at the club, that welcomes people and fosters an environment where participants can be themselves, feel safe, and are appreciated and celebrated for what they each bring.
- 21 people have participated to date. 20 of which had never tried WHRL before.
- 11 people have played for the club, 10 of which had never tried WHRL before.
- 5 players have been invited to train with Scotland, 2 of which made their international debuts, earning their first cap for their country.
Olivia's journey with the Edinburgh Giants began when she saw a post about the Wheelchair Rugby League (WhRL) World Cup on a friend's social media. Curiosity and the desire to find a sport she could participate in, despite her mobility challenges, led her to inquire about taster sessions in Scotland. Her friend introduced her to the new club being formed, offering "come and try" sessions.
Although Olivia had once been passionate about sport, health issues prevented her from participating in activities. This led to a period of depression and social isolation. When Olivia embraced the opportunity to try WhRL, her decision transformed her life.
“Being part of Edinburgh Giants I have a sense of belonging, and renewed purpose. I have aims and goals that I want to achieve. In the short time I have been a Giant my life has changed so much. I am living my life again rather than just existing day-to-day.”
Olivia now has goals to pursue, a sense of fulfilment, and a supportive community that encourages her to excel, both on and off the court.
Since becoming a member of the Edinburgh Giants, Olivia has not only revived her love of sport but also identified opportunities to actively participate in the club's development. Additionally, she has earned the honour of representing Scotland in the sport.
Her journey serves as a powerful testament to the special environment fostered by the Edinburgh Giants.
Ian is the first junior member of the Edinburgh Giants, at just 13 years old.
Ian's journey with the club began when he crossed paths with Louise Gillespie, the Regional Manager, who introduced him to the possibility of joining. He had been actively involved in various sporting events over the past 6-7 years, such as the East of Scotland para festival and frame running wheelchair tennis, which allowed him to connect with people in Scottish disability sport.
Ian recalls that he had always watched rugby and dreamed of playing, but there was nothing suitable for his age nearby. He was so excited to attend his first practice.
“It felt like my life was complete. I look forward to training nights and seeing everyone and trying each week to get better and stronger. There is so much to do. Control the wheelchair, hold the ball, throw the ball - but I love it all.”
Thanks to the Edinburgh Giants, Ian now has the opportunity to pursue his lifelong passion for rugby.
Moving Forward with the Giants
The club's remarkable success has paved the way for its future endeavours, focusing on three key areas:
Expanding Playing Opportunities: The club aims to provide more playing opportunities and foster connections with top-level players, enabling members to enhance their skills and knowledge of the sport.
Broadening Inclusivity: The Edinburgh Giants are committed to welcoming individuals of all backgrounds, ages, gender identities, faiths, and experiences. Their commitment to inclusivity extends to people living with disabilities and various medical conditions.
Holistic Support: To promote the overall well-being of their members, the club plans to develop projects that offer comprehensive support, including strength and conditioning, fitness, and mental wellness programs.
The club has set its sights on achieving charitable status in 2024, ensuring a robust foundation for realising its future goals and objectives.
Funded by the University of Edinburgh’s Community Grants scheme, the Edinburgh Giants WHRL Club exemplifies the profound impact that sports can have on individuals' lives, promoting inclusivity, personal growth, and a sense of belonging. Olivia’s and Ian’s stories are just two of the many examples of how the club has transformed lives, reinforcing the idea that the club is much more than a sports team—it is a community that empowers its members to achieve their goals and find purpose in their journey.