The power of TV: How Boots ‘N’ All kicked off a Wigan rugby league career

Sebastian Sternik
Phil Roberts Wigan Warriors wheelchair rugby league

Photo: John Baldwin/Wigan Warriors

Wheelchair rugby league is not just a pastime – it provides ‘impetus, discipline and focus’ to one’s life according to Wigan coach Phil Roberts.

One of the areas of rugby league which has enjoyed exponential growth over the past couple of years has been in the wheelchair format. 

Roberts, who started his journey in the sport back in 2007, has witnessed the progression and admits the game holds a very special place in his life. 

“The most important things for me outside of work are my family and wheelchair rugby,” Roberts told Love Rugby League

“I factor my weeks around training sessions, and my entire year around fixtures as soon as they come out. Holidays are always outside of the season or in free weeks.”

It all started with Boots ‘N’ All

The current Wigan wheelchair head coach revealed he was made aware of the sport thanks to a feature on a former Sky Sports magazine show. 

“It began for me watching Boots ‘N’ All in late 2007,” said Roberts. “One of the sections was Phil Clarke down at Robin Park with what was then called Wigan and District Wheelchair Sports Club. 

“That was one of two clubs in the country. Wheelchair rugby league hadn’t been in the UK for too long then. 

“I thought ‘wow’. I heard of wheelchair rugby before, but that was the Paralympic version. It’s not rugby in any shape or form other than the name. 

“I saw this and thought ‘wow, they play rugby league in wheelchairs’. I had to get down there, had to have a look. It just took off from there.

“Over the years, I’ve been at a couple of different clubs and then we found out that Wigan were starting a wheelchair rugby league team. 

“As someone who has followed Wigan since I was a boy, stood at the terraces at Central Park, it was a no-brainer when the opportunity came to be involved. I’m glad to have been involved since the outset and I believe we’re building good things.”

Wheelchair rugby league keeps me motivated

Having played his part in the sport for 16 years, it’s unsurprising to learn that Roberts holds a special place in his heart for wheelchair rugby league. 

“It’s been huge,” he said.  “I’ve had a couple of periods in my life where, because of my disability and being out of work, (wheelchair rugby league) has been a consistent thing for me. 

“It’s kept me motivated, keeps me fit, keeps me healthy. I’m very motivated to go to the gym. I train as often as I can. Sometimes five or six days a week when we don’t have a game. 

“It’s wheelchair rugby league that keeps me doing that. I want to stay fit to make sure I can compete with the team, to make sure I’m not the person that’s going to let anybody down. 

“It really provides me with a level of impetus, discipline and focus.”

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