Just over a year ago, a friend and ex-rugby team-mate of mine, Paul Barker, had to have his left leg removed due to a combination of a rugby-related accident and a rare form of cancer. Last year, inspired by a Guinness wheelchair advert, a group of his mates decided to organise an event for Paul. With the help of Leicester Tigers Wheelchair Rugby Club, London Wheelchair Rugby Club and The Matt Hampson Foundation, the first "Murderball Rugby Tournament and Dinner" was held. The event was a remarkable success and last Wednesday (one year on) the event took place for the second time.
The tournament allows able-bodied men and women to have a go at wheelchair rugby. The sport was a huge hit at the London Paralympics in 2012 due to its fast pace and huge collisions. This year, I also managed to get in a chair - my shoulders may still be aching but I have a smile on my face from an incredible day.
Barker in action
Twelve months ago, Paul was a shadow of his former self, physically and mentally drained from the intense chemotherapy. What a difference a year can make: he's adapting well to his new inspector gadget accessory, was cracking terrible jokes and acting generally weird again just like before (traits we both share). More remarkably, he played several games of murderball without getting into a fight!
Here are some action shots from the tournament...
Top rugby referee, JP Doyle, shows how to get away with blatant cheating.
Once the on-court action was over, players and friends gathered for an evening of entertainment and festivities in Twickenham's Shack 68 (I recommend it if you're ever in the area).
Blue Topaz Trio
Barker reminiscing about the sympathy he used to get before his hair grew back
Eloquently cheeky host, John Inverdale, was joined on stage by Harlequins captain and England regular, Joe Marler, and the sensational soprano, Laura Wright. Supporters of the event since its conception last year, both Joe and Laura kept the room entertained and showed Inverdale that he's not the only one at ease behind the mic.
I'm not sure what Inverdale said to make Laura take a swing!
Further amusement was provided by a "fastest pass" competition between courses along with a successful auction and raffle...
Joe shares his opinion on the quality of Inverdale's jokes
I'd like to say a huge thank you to everybody involved in organising such a great event. I will be posting a more comprehensive gallery on my facebook page soon (please like the page and tag your friends in the pics).
If you want more information on the murderball event and the charities involved, please click on the following links: