A review of 2017 from The Dorset Destroyers

A review of 2017.

Sue Coombs and I were sent an invitation by Livability Holton Lee to attend the official opening of the new Spinal Unit by HRH Princess Anne on January 18th.

It was a fantastic day. Very honoured to be thought of like that.
You don’t set up all these clubs with the aim of doing anything like this, you do it for the love of it. But to be recognised is something special.

Nick and Sue Coombs meet HRH Princess Anne
Chairman Nick Coombs and Club Secretary Sue Coombs from the Dorset Destroyers Wheelchair Rugby Club met HRH Princess Anne at the official opening of Holton Lee Livability’s Spinal Unit

Sue and I were told that we would be meeting her on the day and I was so nervous. But so many people were looking after us and just saying it will be ok. When the time came she was really nice and dare I say normal 🙂

We chatted about the Wheelchair Rugby and she knew quite a bit about it. Lovely day. And one of those days that will go down in big history of the club and our lives.

We had also started a range of other disability sports with some cracking teachers doing Wheelchair Self-Defence, Wheelchair Tennis, Wheelchair Badminton and the very popular disability shooting club.

The Dorset Destroyers started an indoor shooting club run by Ferndown Gun Club
The very first indoor shooting club session run by Ferndown Gun Club and organised by The Dorset Destroyers

In February we had round 2 of the matches in the League Division 3 GBWR. We came into that weekend in 2nd place, having merged with Woodbridge Wheeled Warriors and going under our name and the very first time the club had played in the League. It was another tough weekend, losing against Stoke Mandeville Maulers and Hammerheads (Solent Sharks Wheelchair Rugby Club) from Southampton

We finished in 3rd place.

Around this time we also had 2 new players join, direct from Salisbury Spinal Unit – Literally, we dragged them out kicking and screaming and Jack Sims at the time was still an inpatient and Dillon Fung had only been out a matter of weeks!!!

Sue Coombs and I were invited to attend the Poole Civic Awards where we were presented with a Poole Pottery plate by the Mayor of Poole Cllr Xena Dion at Upton Country House. We sat at the Mayor’s table as well and chatted about the state of disability sports in general and trying to always find funding etc.

It is great to receive these awards as it recognises all the hard work that EVERYONE has put in to make this work. It’s not just me and Sue, it’s the poor committee listening to mad ideas and doing all the horrible jobs in the background, the players who turn up (No players, no club!) and the volunteers who….let’s face it, without them we can’t run!

That weekend we also played Endeavour Hawks Public Group in Plymouth and there were a lot of close fought matches, but Endeavour came out on top.

The Brownies came to visit us in training and let’s just say there were lots of oooohhhhhh’s and aaahhhh’s and lots of Ohhhh no’s!!!

We rounded the month off by running a school tournament for St Aldhelm’s Academy and the kids just totally loved it. With events like these we can show the positive side of disability. That although people are disabled, it doesn’t end there.
So many comments from the pupils saying how fit you have to be or how strong, but we explained to them that it’s also about using what you do have, your technical skills and the fact that so many disabled people have to rethink things to get around them. I think that’s what blew a few of their minds, especially when one of the pupils said he’d like to try going to the toilet to see what it was like and stopped by the doors because he couldn’t get outside!!

It wasn’t supposed to be a life changing event, but just a have a go tournament, but it opened their eyes.

In April David McWilliam was doing 30 sports in 30 days fundraiser for The Steve Bernard Foundation and tried out Wheelchair Rugby with us. I love the face of someone new when they start. Trying to workout the logistics of the rugby chair and then when it hits them, that smile on the face.

The Mayor of Poole Cllr Xena Dion came down to try out Wheelchair Rugby as well. She has been a great supporter of the club and we had a good chat with her.

The club travelled to Bristol for a day of variant Wheelchair Rugby. (Now called Wheelchair Rugby 5’s) The sport is becoming more accessible to many more disabilities and during it’s “birth” there have been a few one day events to work out the logistics of it. It was a great event and we had a few “Non Destroyers” on our side to balance out teams. These Non Destroyers we later found out were some of the players from the Invictus Team UK and when they came down to play us in July it was great to meet them again and I felt quite privileged to have them on our team.

So the final weekend appeared and everyone was fired up for it. We had to win 2 matches of our 3 to guarantee tying on points with our local rivals The Hammerheads from Southampton (Team Solent Sharks Wheelchair Rugby). They were way ahead of us on goal difference, so it came down to us having to win at all costs.The Hammerheads were old hands at this and we knew we had to try and upset them in order to win. In the last round they had been on fire and were playing some fantastic wheelchair rugby. Ok, so more on that later.

We started the day off against Brighton Buccaneers Wheelchair Rugby Club, a team that we hadn’t lost too. This was going to be dangerous, as they were after a win and so were we. It was going to have to be clinical. The Buccaneers were a much stronger force and the scores were tight at 32-25 to the Destroyers. First match down and we knew the next was just going to be a case of keep as many points as we can for ourselves against Stoke Mandeville Maulers as they were unbeaten all season and had a team that were very focused. We lost 51-17 but that was the most we’d ever scored against them, so not to bad 😉 We knew it was going to be tough.

So our final match arrived. It was tense and having just heard that the Buccaneers had just won their first game there was a buzz around the place. The team they had just beaten were the Hammerheads, so as it stood we were 2 points clear (3 for a win, 1 for a loss) so it was still a case of needing to beat the Hammerheads to claim that 2nd place for ourselves.

The match kicked off with both teams neck a neck. It was tight, sometimes the Hammerheads were ahead by 1, other times it was us. Neither team was going to let this slip out of their hands.

We went into half-time leading 15-12, but it was a very, very narrow lead and one that could slip in a flash.

The Destroyers players were told that if they win that match it was definitely 2nd place for them and it renewed energies. There was still a mountain to climb, but that’s what The Destroyers were doing. By the end of the 3rd quarter we’d taken the lead 22-16, and it just kept climbing 24-17, 28-19 until the final whistle blew and the score was 34-20 to the Dorset Destroyers.

What a FANTASTIC result. For a team that had to merge at the beginning of the season with Woodbridge Wheeled Warriors because neither team had enough players, and a team that had only ever trained for 3 hours…..well it was totally amazing.

There we sat 2nd place in Division 3 2016/2017 4 points clear of our local rivals the Hammerheads 😉

BT Super Series

At the beginning of May we met up with Fi Stephenson at Livability Holton Lee to discuss how we can help patients when they arrive there, and also to finalise Jack Sims 10K Wheelchair Cross Country Push which happened in July.

We were also invited (The Whole Team) to the Mayors Parlour (Cllr Xena Dion) for afternoon tea which went down rather well 🙂

In mid May we had the Royal Marines/Lytchett Rugby Club come down for a training session which ended up with 22 players in total and was quite fun running it 🙂

In June Sue Coombs was asked if she’d like to be Chairman of Poole Sports Council and as she was already Chairman of Disability Sports Forum it seemed like the natural choice. It’s a part of what we (Sue and I) always wanted to do long before we started the Destroyers. Link Dorset up together and get various corners talking about what’s going on in their area.

Then on June 22nd was one of the most important days of our lives. Our daughter Jenny Hosegood got married to Dan Hosegood and it was a lovely day in Blandford Forum 🙂

After the lovely day we got ourselves ready for what was going to be one of THE MOST exciting days for the Destroyers in their history.

The month of July started with a HUGE bang. We had the honour of playing against Invictus Team UK as part of their warm up to the Invictus Games Toronto 2017

We decided that as we had so many players we’d split the Destroyers into 2 teams and the results were as follows:-
The Dorset Destroyers A 7 Vs Invictus Team UK 16
The Dorset Destroyers B 8 Vs Team Invictus UK 11
The Dorset Destroyers A 8 Vs The Dorset Destroyers B 4

and in the final game the 2 Destroyers teams merged to play Invictus. We were aware that this was our last chance and we used a combination of classified players and variants and fought together to make it really tough. In our previous 2 matches we’d split the team down the middle so one was predominantly classifieds and one variants, but now with everyone together and everyone complimenting each other so well the final result was:-

The Dorset Destroyers 18 Vs Team Invictus UK 17

The ball is loose

But what a fantastic day it was and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. After all, how often does a Division 3 club get to play a National Team?

The following weekend Sean Gabriel the centre manager for Rossmore Leisure Centre had organised with Sue Coombs a disability sports open day and numerous disability sports clubs were invited from Dorset. We had 117 people attend and try out different sports.

At the end of July, Jack Sims had organised a 10K Cross Country Wheelchair Push across Livability Holton Lee. The day was sunny and bright. Unfortunately, the night before it had rained so the ground was a bit boggy. But it was good fun and it helped to raise a magnificent £2,500+

So after such a great event we closed for 3 weeks and rested.

At the end of August we had a film crew coming in to film for a BBC One programme (Due early 2018 with John Colgan, Sonja Manning, Richard Holder, Dave Jolliffe and Nick Coombs) and it took a good 3 hours to do, but what with the filming of training match and what we did (Which we have to keep quiet about until it comes out) it was a good experience.

At the Poole Sports Awards in September, The Dorset Destroyers won
Everyone Active Rossmore Leisure Centre’s Team of the Year for their humongous efforts in Division 3 Super Series for coming in 2nd place in their first year as a team.

Well done to Becky Hill, Charlie Williams, George Ransome, Sonja Manning, Grace McGowan, Phil Porter and Woodbridge Wheeled Warriors who we joined forces with so that both teams could play (Both being short of players)

It was a phenomenal start, considering that Dorset and Woodbridge trained only for 3 hours together 6 weeks before it all started. It was a great way to start our very first season. And the cherry on the cake was beating Hammerheads (From Southampton) in the final match of the final day of the final weekend to get 2nd place 😉

Our committee were also nominated for the Freddie Rowe award (Sue Coombs John Colgan Nathan Potter Dave and Lindsey Jolliffe and Feriha Hassan) for all their hard work, but they lost against Graham Sutton who has been working hard for 25+ years 🙂

Our ties with Livability Holton Lee were getting more cemented as Sue went to do a talk and invited the team to come down to watch us play against Endeavour Hawks Public Group in October. Endeavour are a military based team from Plymouth. The Destroyers split into 2 teams again. Results:-

The Dorset Destroyers (A) 10 Endeavour Hawks (A) 5
The Dorset Destroyers (B) 11 Endeavour Hawks (B) 11
The Dorset Destroyers (A) 14 Endeavour Hawks (A) 9
The Dorset Destroyers (B) 7 Endeavour Hawks (B) 10

It was another great day 🙂

In the middle of all this was the birth of a mad idea by David Wilkinson – Have a 24 Hour Wheelchair Rugby Marathon to raise money for The Dorset Destroyers, the Royal Signals Benevolent Fund and Cakes 4 Casualties. 3 organisations that had helped him on his road to “Normality” This is now happening on Saturday, March 17th till 18th 2018 at Rossmore. Sean Gabriel the Centre Manager said there would be no costs involved for the hall hire which has saved us a pretty penny or two and we now have a sponsor for the rest of the event 4Com Thank you 🙂

Mid November arrived – Time to play The Sharks again in a “friendly”. They are a Division 1 team (They were 2nd in the table at the time of the match) and they are based in Southampton, so it was going to be a good old local derby. We’d played them 3 times before in friendlies and the first time was a 36-36 draw, the 2nd and 3rd times they wiped the floor with us 36-61, 39-74 but this time there was something else and as we now had a bit of experience behind us and a good few matches under our belt it was different. The scoreline was 45-42 and although it was a loss we knew we were on the right road.

In December the new variation of Wheelchair Rugby was launched. It’s called Wheelchair Rugby 5’s and basically, it fills the hole for disabled people who cannot play in the traditional version. Unfortunately, the launch went a bit snowy and 3 of the teams couldn’t make it. But we got up there to play against Stoke Mandeville Maulers and lost 23-16 and then played another match which was against part Brighton and part other teams and we won 24-6. The final match was basically Dorset, Stoke and whoever was still able to stay on (As the snow was getting worse) I don’t know the result, but luckily there were no refs to see what was going on, as it turned into a bit of a feral “Thing”!!!

Finally it came to our Christmas party and time to announce the player of the year – Congratulations to Sonja Manning 🙂

What a great year it’s been and all I have to do now is to say a MAHOOSIVELY BIG THANKS to everyone for everything you’ve done.

There’s only one way to go from here and that’s up