Long before Wheelchair Basketball North Wales launched or Anglesey Hawks, Caernarfon Celts or Conwy Thunder were established, a small group had started to make a plan and it all began with Rhyl Raptors wheelchair basketball club.
After a long time planning, mountains of research and many a discussion between friends Mike Hayes, Sophie Vaughan and Peter Grime, a few small gatherings were successfully held and soon after, Rhyl Raptors was launched, the 2nd November 2010 will go down in history as the precursor to what was to come and the beginning of an incredible journey that has engulfed the area in a love and passion for such an inclusive sport.
As the plans progressed, new partnerships were formed across the region, numbers of classifiable players began to rise at the one session over at Rhyl, with players travelling from all over North Wales, the next step was a new club in a new location.
By February 2012 North Wales boasted three regional clubs, with Conwy hosting their first session as Conwy Thunder WBC, and not long after that Caernarfon Celts WBC were also launched. The region was now in the position to enter their first British Wheelchair Basketball Development League in the 2011/12 season. Even at this stage, the idea was firmly in place to have a regional body, representing the region but while this idea took time to evolve, the initial teams were hosted under the Rhyl Raptors banner. However, there weren’t only Raptors, Conwy players played side by side with Raptors as team mates and as a region, the first season came with the Win.
In April 2014, Anglesey launched a wheelchair basketball club, The Anglesey Hawks. With four clubs now covering much of the region, with new and strong partnerships between the health board and Disability Sport Wales under the Health Disability Sport Partnership (HDSP) and all the planning, wheelchair basketball was now very much at home in North Wales.
Rhyl Raptors continued to grow in the British Wheelchair Basketball leagues, with the regions clubs teaming up under Rhyl’s name to present not one but two teams into the National League. By 2015 Rhyl Raptors 1 were playing Division 2 with Rhyl Raptors 2 playing in Division 3.
2015 was a very big year for North Wales, after four incredible years, the region was going from strength to strength, player numbers increasing, new coaches, referees and table officials were being qualified. The plan back in 2010 was still very much on track and the next stage, the next step was about to begin!
Wheelchair Basketball North Wales, (WBNW) was launched at Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay on July 22nd 2015. With the support of British Wheelchair Basketball and SportWales, WBNW was created as the lead body of Wheelchair Basketball within the North Wales region, working with the four clubs in partnership to increase participation whilst offering support to both players and coaches.
With the new lead body in place, a big step in the progression of the sport in the region was to have a dedicated national league team developed and managed by the WBNW. Rhyl Raptors had been running as both a local club and the national league teams, so the natural progression saw Rhyl returning to the local club status and North Wales Knights launched as the next step in the North Wales story.
With the launch of WBNW also came the North Wales league,a friendly league for the North Wales clubs to compete against one another, offering the opportunity for players to compete in a welcoming and educational environment, as well as giving opportunities to both table officials and referees.
Now in 2017, 6 years after Rhyl Raptors was launched, the region has gone from strength to strength. With three National League teams, a new Women’s Team, an U19s and the British Junior U15s 2016/17 Champions all playing within the British Wheelchair Basketball Leagues. Four ever growing regional clubs with both junior and senior sessions and the RGK North Wales League, North Wales and wheelchair basketball have an inseparable bond, even boasting Britain’s best supporters.
But we aren’t done quite yet! With more still to accomplish from the plan made back in 2010, Mike Hayes and the team at WBNW have a lot more in the pipeline, so watch this space, the story of Wheelchair Basketball in North Wales continues to be written.