USA Wheelchair Rugby League to Take On Wales in First Game on US Soil
The USA Wheelchair Rugby League team made an impact in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup and brought a lot of attention to the USA in regards to the sport. The team, who at the time had not yet played an actual game of Wheelchair Rugby League, defeated Scotland in the first round. USA was later defeated by Wales and France in their pool, but for a new team they were able to make a name for themselves and brought a lot of excitement to the competition. The USA Hawks, nicknamed the WheelHawks, planned to build off their World Cup successes and grow the sport back home.
The team is preparing for their first international match on US soil, and will host Wales in two games on the 2nd and 3rd of February 2024. The games will take place in Myrtle Beach, SC, as part of The Beers of America- Adaptive Sports Festival. The event will feature adaptive sport demonstrations, craft beer, and local food trucks as well as the USA vs Wales games headlining the event. Other adaptive sports involved will include pickleball, tennis, goal ball and wheelchair basketball.
Coach Geoff Mason has chosen the 14 member squad for the two internationals, and it is a mix of veterans and some newcomers to the US jersey.
“The team will be captained by Jesse Lind following the retirement of Jeff Townsend,” said Mason. “Lind is a Veteran Marine, and brings toughness and strong leadership skills to his role. Micah Stewart has been elevated to the Vice Captain position and is the field general and organizer of offensive and defensive structures. Mack Johnson, who was selected in the 10 player ‘Team of the World Cup’ brings speed and positional savvy to the squad. Bill Johnstone, Andy Kingsley and Freddie Smith, together with Gabi Cha bring grit and aggressiveness.”
Several newcomers look to make their US debut in the Welsh series. “Chayse Wolf, Lisa Maddox, and Justin Hall are all new to the game but have picked it up quickly and we look forward to their contributions,” said Mason. “Wales ranked third in the world, will be a tough and experienced challenge to the US but the USA team looks forward to the games as another step forward in the growth of the game stateside.”
Captain Jesse Lind is confident that the team is making progress. “After the World Cup, team USA took a short break but we’ve been back at it for a few months now,” said Lind. “We’ve had some turnover with personnel as far as a new manager and a new team mechanic. We have a few new players replacing players that stepped away from the game, but the core has remained. There has been stability within the organization and with the coaching staff.
As with any national level team, getting together to train is an obstacle, but Lind says the USA Wheelchair team has been working hard to prepare for these matches. “Our players are spread out all over NC, SC and GA, so we don’t practice as much as we’d like, but it’s quality over quantity more or less. When we get together, we go hard. We’ve had some solid outings in preparation for our upcoming matches. The newer players are assimilating themselves to the game. The coaches are doing their best getting them up to speed. They have been embraced by the veteran players and are progressing nicely. We’ll be conditioned. We’ll be ready to compete.”
The USA Hawks team for the Feb 2 and 3 matches against Wales are:
Jesse Lind- Captain
Micah Stewart- Vice Captain
Players: Gabi Cha, Mack Johnson, Chayse Wolf, Bill Johnstone, Andy Kingsley, Tony LeBoutillier, Jabrier Lee, Freddie Smith, Justin Hall, Lisa Maddox, David Roemhildt, Devin Perry
Head Coach- Geoff Mason
Assistant Coach- Tremaine O’Neal
Team Manager- Jasmine Townsend
Team Athletic Trainers- Mary Slover and Annie Gibbs
Referee- Peter Garlando
Photographer- Andrew Corbett
Videographer- Scott Fowler
The Beers of America Adaptive Sports Festival will take place at John T. Rhodes Myrtle Beach Sports Center, 2115 Sports Center Way Myrtle Beach, SC 29577.
Gates will be open on Fri, Feb 2nd, 5pm - close and Sat, Feb 3rd, 10am - 6pm.
USA vs Wales will begin at 7pm on Fri, Feb 2nd and 3pm on Sat, Feb 3rd.
Tickets to the event can be purchased here- https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-beers-of-america-adaptive-sports-festival-tickets-784658062387