Wigan star says American athletes would ‘snap’ at opportunity to play wheelchair rugby league

Sebastian Sternik
Matt Wooloff USA World Cup Wigan Warriors wheelchair rugby league SWpix

Photo: John Clifton/SWpix

United States wheelchair rugby league international Matt Wooloff has backed American athletes to excel in the sport should they be given the opportunity to do so. 

Wooloff represented USA during last year’s World Cup and scored three tries during the tournament as his side bowed out in the group stages.

The Americans finished third in their group but did pick up their first ever World Cup victory following a 62-41 win over Scotland. 

“The World Cup was an incredible experience,” said Wooloff. “Those two to three weeks were, I think it’s fair to say, the best experience of my life. 

“Having to gel with a new team was really interesting. It was quite a challenge. I never really had to do that before. Usually, you get a few months of training in.” 

Matt Wooloff on finding his American heritage

When asked about his eligibility to play for the United States, Wooloff revealed a fascinating family background. 

He said: “My dad was actually adopted when he was a baby, and he had a pair of loving adoptive parents who were obviously my grandparents. 

“In the last couple of years, his partner almost pushed him into getting an Ancestry.com test. His (biological) mother was Irish and his father turned out to be an American serviceman. 

“Now we’ve got this whole network of new family members across the states which is lovely. And obviously it gives me the heritage to play for the USA.”

Americans would ‘snap’ at the chance to play wheelchair rugby league

The United States had to scramble in order to put together a World Cup side ahead of last year’s tournament.

Wooloff hopes the sport can use the momentum from the event to kick start wheelchair rugby league despite the logistical challenges.

He said: “The big thing is, they need to start to form domestic sides even if it is in a couple of states. 

“Have a couple of Magic Weekend fixtures, everyone flies to each other and player a round robin. 

“I think the more states it expands into, it will increase their player base. Rugby league is a growing sport over there. 

“They already have some great adaptive sport routes. I think there’s a lot of wheelchair basketball players who play wheelchair basketball as their main sport, because they’ve never been offered anything else. 

“You’ve got some incredible athletes over there and if they were given the option to play wheelchair rugby league, I think they’d snap it up and they would do really well in the sport.”

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