You might not have heard of them, but the Sydney Roosters Physical Disability Rugby League team might just be the most inspirational to wear the famous Tricolours.
A Foundation Club in the New South Wales Physical Disability Rugby League Association (NSWPDRLA), the Roosters currently play in a six-team competition with matches played fortnightly at Cabramatta.
As a rapidly-growing sector of Rugby League - with the first-ever World Cup to be played later this year - the Roosters' PDRL team continues to do the Club proud with a side that features forklift operators, audio technicians and community volunteers, with some even venturing from as far as Dubbo every two weeks to pull on the Red, White and Blue.
The Roosters face the likes of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, Newtown Jets, Wests Tigers and Parramatta Eels in a nine-a-side competition; each team is allowed two 'able-bodied' players, who are stationed to guide around the team, are not allowed to score or kick, and must pass the ball after taking a few steps in order to allow the best experience for the team.
I’m sure I speak for a lot of other players but it is huge for us. Growing up with a disability, to have this opportunity to play a sport that is inclusive is massive.Rylee Lowe Sydney Roosters PDRL Captain
Currently working in the NRL's Gameday Development team, Captain Rylee Lowe has been with the side for the last four seasons and expressed his pride when leading out the Roosters.
“I started playing when I was six in the Penrith district," he explained.
“I stopped when I was nine and didn’t start playing until I found the Physical Disability Rugby League.
“We’ve got a great group in the squad and there’s always a good vibe at training, especially with our coach and managers who have built a culture for us to bond with.
“It’s pretty special to pull on the Red, White and Blue. I understand now when people say the Roosters are a proud Club - and you understand that when you put the jersey on."
Head Coach Aldo Spennati explained how his son Marco - who also plays in the side - helped to get him involved in the competition after citing his desire to pull on the boots.
Inspired by his team's tenacity and courage to pull on the boots and play the game they love, Aldo's coaching journey has brought him full circle after a playing stint in the Eastern Suburbs alongside a Roosters Premiership winner.
“My son Marco was born with hydrocephalus – which is fluid on the brain. The left side of his body is affected, and he has mild cerebral palsy," he explained.
“We came across George Tonna - who founded the Physical Disability Rugby League - around 10 years ago, and it was then when Marco decided he wanted to play Rugby League, so that’s what we did and we’ve been involved ever since.
“You see people with a disability or illness, whatever they might have trying to achieve something and doing what they want to do – we take life for granted.
“You see these boys and girls play and you see the smile on their face, and to see parents, siblings and friends on the sidelines see them get an opportunity to play the sport they love - it’s inspirational.
“For me, there’s pride in wearing the Roosters colours, after playing for Clovelly for two years after high school.
“To be given the honour of coaching the Roosters, it takes me back to when I was playing in the Eastern Suburbs under Des O’Reilly. I’ve gone full-circle."
You see these boys and girls play and you see the smile on their face, and to see parents, siblings and friends on the sidelines see them get an opportunity to play the sport they love - it’s inspirational.Aldo Spennati Sydney Roosters PDRL Head Coach
Now playing the sport he loves, Rylee expressed his gratitude for Aldo and the hard-working volunteers that keep the competition running week-to-week.
“It's huge," he said.
"I’m sure I speak for a lot of other players but it is huge for us. Growing up with a disability, to have this opportunity to play a sport that is inclusive is massive.
"Aldo and his wife Trish are the kind of volunteers that don’t go away; they keep going and if we didn’t have people like them, we probably wouldn’t have the competition."
More Physical Disability Rugby League News...