Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland man must raise £4k to keep his Wheelchair Rugby World Championship dream alive

By Donna Deeney

The only Northern Ireland-based member of the Irish Wheelchair rugby side is appealing to the public to help him raise £4,000 so he can take part in the World Championships in Australia.

For the first time ever, a team from Ireland has qualified for the tournament - but, unlike many other participants, the Irish representatives have to cover all their costs themselves.

Team member Will Doggart (27) tragically broke his neck nine years ago in a diving accident whilst on holiday and has been using a wheelchair ever since.

But playing rugby has opened up a whole new world for him.

Will's prowess at the game won him a place on the Irish side but the opportunity of a lifetime hangs in the balance because of the funding crisis.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Will explained: "I started playing rugby around six years ago as part of my rehabilitation after I broke my neck eight years ago.

"At first I used it just to get active but, before I knew it, I was training in Dublin with the Ireland team three times a week where I am the only Ulster man.

"We have gone from being 25th in the world five years ago to qualifying in the European A Championships last year, where we were placed in sixth position.

"We had the World Qualifying Championships two months ago and we were ranked last because no one thought we had any chance but we ended up winning it, and winning comfortably.

"We played against New Zealand, Poland, Korea, Germany and Switzerland and qualified for the World Championships next month."

Will said that every other team they played against was heavily funded "but we get nothing".

"GB had their funding cut but they still received £1 million to work with every four years - but we fund ourselves," he said.

"The Rugby Federation in England also gives the GB team financial support which is the case for the teams from the USA and Australia. But our request for help from the Ireland Rugby Football Union has fallen on deaf ears.

"The Mary Peters Trust and GLL Sports Foundation have been really good to me but, as we have gotten further and further into the tournament, the costs have increased. Disability Sport NI do great stuff but there is so much out there - they can only give a drop in the ocean.

"I have contacted Ulster Rugby about the possibility of them possibly sponsoring me because I am the only player on the team from Ulster and I hope to hear back from them soon."

Will needs to raise £4,000 within the next four weeks for his contribution towards the team's overall target of £50,000.

"All the other teams are professional and we are the only amateur team so we really are going into this tournament as the underdogs," he said.

"Having said that, the whole experience has been so exciting, we are getting to go to Australia and play against all these amazing teams who are my heroes, but it is all down to reaching our fundraising targets."

Details of Will's gofundme page can be found at gofundme.com/ wheelchair-rugby-world- championship

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