Wheelchair rugby ace hails generous public for backing Oz dream
An Irish wheelchair rugby player has been left "overwhelmed" after people rallied behind his efforts to make it to the world championships in Australia.
Will Doggart (27), who broke his neck in a diving accident nine years ago, is the only player from Northern Ireland to make the squad, which has qualified for the first time.
Last week he told the Belfast Telegraph that, unlike most other teams in the tournament, the Ireland side had to cover all its own expenses, meaning that each player had to raise £4,000.
He explained: "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."
Since the story appeared Will has now reached his own target thanks to the generosity of readers.
He said: "I'm overwhelmed, it's a big relief, but I have to keep going for everyone else.
"I just aimed for £4k because it seemed realistic, but we as a team still need another £20k."
He wheelchair athlete was speaking just moments after a single donation of £1,500 helped him exceed his crowdfunding target yesterday.
Now he has vowed to stick at it in order to ensure the entire team arrive in time for kick-off in less than four weeks.
"Hopefully we can keep going and raise even more money, the other guys are trying so hard but we don't have long left," he said.
"If I can raise just a bit more it will take the pressure off them."
Will, who took up the sport two years ago after the holiday accident, has helped his team climb from 25th to 6th in the world rankings. He said everyone in the squad, which went head-to-head with New Zealand, Korea and Germany to reach the world championships, will be devastated if they fail to meet the crucial target.
"We have already invested so much in this and have booked our flights, we are staying really positive," he said.
The dedicated sportsman, who travels to Dublin three times a week for training, is now focused on encouraging his team-mates who are engaged in a range of fundraising efforts in the Republic.
"It's tough to prepare for a tournament like this with such a financial burden hanging over us," he added.
Will is confident that the once-in-a-life-time trip could see the Ireland team win the tournament.
"If we can eliminate this financial obstacle then we can all just concentrate on the game and on making everyone proud," he said.
"We are all staying positive and that is what's keeping us going.
"I am so thankful to everyone who has donated, this means so much to all of us."