By JAMES MOULTRIE
England coach Tom Coyd and player Lewis King expressed their excitement for the future of wheelchair rugby league at the SJA British Sports awards following England’s World Cup triumph.
They received the Bill McGowran Trophy for para team of the year after defeating holders France in a thrilling 28-24 final and launching the sport to a new dimension.
King scored a try in the final but was keen to highlight the journey England went on in the run up to the tournament’s climax having lost to France in the previous final.
He said: “We’d been working towards winning the World Cup for five years.
“In 2017 we missed out by four points so we went away and worked as hard as we could to be in the best possible place to win the World Cup.
“It’s not about the tries, but when you put the ball down in the World Cup final, it’s a proud and exciting moment.”
Coyd added: “Its been the number one priority in life for everyone in the team since 2017, it amazing the amount of ambition loss gives you.”
Captain Tom Halliwell led by example with two tries, including the match-winner which caused the arena to erupt.
The final itself was played out at Manchester Central in front of a record 4,526 person crowd after the group stages were held at the Copper Box in London and the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
King said: “It was an amazing crowd. Back in 2016, 2017 and 2018, we played in front of five or six people.
“To have that chance to play in front of 5,000 people at the final, the 1.3 million who watched it on the BBC and tell people what the sport was about, was amazing.”
Teams across the country responded to England’s success with taster sessions and Coyd heralded the sports openness to everyone as key to its growth.
He said: “It’s the most inclusive sport in the world.
“To provide an opportunity for people to play alongside their disabled brothers, sons, fathers or mothers, it’s just a beautiful game and now we’re ready to welcome in even more people.”
The family element was present throughout England’s triumph as Coyd’s brother Joe was a key member of the squad and scored a hat-trick against Wales in the semi final.
In the moments after the final Tom shared an emotional embrace with their father, Martin Coyd OBE, who is the Chair of England Wheelchair Rugby League and has been key to development of the game.
Coyd said: “I can’t imagine my family without wheelchair rugby league.
“My dad’s been a champion of the sport. Without the work he’s done alongside his peers to get wheelchair rugby league on the platform it is, I don’t think that we would’ve had a World Cup where wheelchair, women and men were together.”
James Moultrie is a member of the SJA Academy – open to aspiring sports journalists from across the UK. Free to join, find out more here.