15 September 2023

Warrington favourites ‘schooled’ in ‘frightening’ wheelchair rugby league clash

15 September 2023

As two of Warrington’s greatest, Paul Cullen and Ben Westwood were hardly shrinking violets.

Fan favourite Cullen earned the nickname ‘Psycho’ for his aggressive defence during a 15-year career in which he made 350 appearances for his hometown club.

Westwood, meanwhile, was known as the ‘Wrecking Ball’ for his integral role in the side that won three Challenge Cup finals between 2009 and 2012.

Yet as much as they clearly relished the bone-jarring collisions, both admit they may have met their match in wheelchair rugby league.

That growing sport is something they both now have experience of having joined a team of past Warrington players to face one of the club’s wheelchair sides in a promotional game.

The Wolves were admitted to the Wheelchair Super League last year and arranged the fixture earlier this month to raise funds and awareness for their side.

“It was frightening,” Cullen, who went on to coach the club after hanging up his boots in 1996, told the PA news agency. “They didn’t shirk anything and there were some very big hits.

“We were all experienced professionals but this was something else. It was so demanding physically.

“A few of us got knocked out of our chairs but while they just bounced back up we had to get helped back in.

“They absolutely schooled us. We didn’t score a single try. The only thing we were good at was kicking off – and we got plenty of practise at that because they kept scoring!”

As well as Cullen and Westwood, the ex-professionals’ team also featured other past stars including Toa Kohe-Love, Mark Forster and Mike Wainwright.

They were thrashed 24-0 by the Wolves’ wheelchair development side but the result was not the purpose of the exercise.

The hits that went in – I was shocked – but this is how rugby league should be.

The wheelchair game gained new popularity with some national TV exposure during last year’s World Cup and Warrington are keen to build on that.

“I enjoyed it and it was good fun,” said Westwood, scorer of 188 tries in his 446-game Wire career. “I would definitely give it another go and hopefully we can be a bit better next time.

“The hits that went in – I was shocked – but, at the same time, I was thinking this is how rugby league should be, even in wheelchairs.

“There were quite a lot of people there. It can only help the sport going forward and hopefully get more people going to watch it.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox