2 Nov 2022
Grove: Australia mean business this time around
The Wheelaroos kickstart their campaign against old enemy England in Stratford
By Milly McEvoy
Captain Brad Grove admits Australia were merely making up the numbers at previous wheelchair World Cups, but this time is different: they are here to win.
The Wheelaroos are ready to compete at the Rugby League World Cup 2021 as Australia bid to become the first country to hold the men’s, women’s and wheelchair trophies at the same time.
Australia begin their campaign against the old enemy and hosts England at the Copper Box Arena tomorrow before taking on Spain and Ireland.
“We want to go all the way,” Grove said. “In the last two World Cups, we've been there purely for participation as a developing nation.
“I think we're well past that now, we want to prove to everyone that Australia is a country worth coming and seeing and doing a test series against.
“We don't want to be waiting every four years to play something internationally. If we can take that trophy home, hopefully that will make countries go ‘let's go over there, let's prove that we want that back’.”
Australia lost in the final to inaugural winners England at the 2008 World Cup before finishing fourth and third as France won back-to-back titles.
Grove was part of the Wheelaroos side that lost to England in the 2013 semi-finals when the wheelchair and women’s tournament were played as part of the Festival of World Cups.
Now, the wheelchair competition join the men’s and women’s tournaments in being held at the same time for the first time ever.
He added: “I'm really excited about being over here, it's my third World Cup, and to see it progress from where it was in 2013 to here is fantastic.
“I know all the boys are extremely excited. We've got some younger talent coming in and some of the older boys as well.
“Preparation has gone pretty well, there are obviously a couple of nerves, but the boys are well and truly ready to get on the court.
“We are trying to build our brand both as a team and as a sport in Australia and we want to bring the Wheelaroos to the same level as the Jillaroos and the Kangaroos, so having the platform at the World Cup and to have it all equal feels great.”
Like his captain, coach Brett Clark is also celebrating the mix of youth and experience in the Wheelaroos squad.
Clark said: “Every coach looks for that. You want to make sure that your pathway forward is pretty bright, and you're not always sticking with the same talent.
“If you always have experienced players and you don't bring new players in, your game becomes a little bit stale.
“We've had a couple of test games recently leading into the World Cup, we've seen these younger guys really bring that energy, which then carries some of the older players to actually go somewhere in their game plan.
“It brings a different brand of football and something that is a little bit exciting.
“I hope that when we go up against England in the opener, we're going to bring a different type of rugby league brand.
“It is still within the constraints of the traditional sense of the game, but to make it more entertaining as well and will probably lift England and the other nations that we play. For me that's perfect.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets