Rugby League creates pathways for disabled players

By Taroi Black

A South Auckland league legend has never let his birth defect stop him from achieving. Jim Doolan (Ngapuhi) has now been tasked with a new challenge, to lead the New Zealand Disabled Rugby League team to new heights. 

“It's a really positive thing for me to be able to help others. I have done it over the years with normal league as well - coaching, managing, training, but it's good to help these sort of players like myself that don't really get this opportunity”, says Jim Doolan

Jim Doolan was born with Thalidomide, making both arms shorter and deformed. However over the past three decades he has become a lifetime member for the Otara Rugby League Club. But now he is giving back by assisting the New Zealand Disabled Rugby League team.

“I just see it as a good opportunity, not only to help others but to grow the game in New Zealand and hopefully catch up to Australia because apparently they're like six years ahead of us”, says Doolan.

The team was formed last year to help give the players another pathway. And this year, they've played three games.

“They just love it. They love to get out there and get dirty and roughed up and and walk home proudly with injuries. They're very much like their able bodied peers who are able to go out and play sports. These guys are now like them,” says Sandra Michelle Hickey.

On top of their achievements this year, Jim and his teammate Matthew Ngametua have been selected to play in the All Star rugby league competition in Australia for disabled players, in July.

We will be able to show off our skills and our abilities. We're not really focused on our disabilities but our abilities and what we can do. And we can take the hits as well”,  says Matthew Ngametua.