The RGK North Wales League drew to a close with the final round held at Eirias Park Leisure Centre.
Arriving before 9am on a beautiful Sunday morning, basketball chair in tow, with a ball balanced on the footplate, the day of basketball really gets started.
Wheeling into the court, the first beat of adrenaline kicks in as basketball friends welcome you over to your place along the wall of teams. Blue Hawks, Green Celts, Purple Thunders and Red Raptors all mingle and cohabitate along the wall, talking and laughing about past rounds and catching up on personal events and news, you could never imagine that these teams were soon to go head to head and wheel to wheel on the court.
As the Captains and Coaches hand out the vests to the selected squads, another beat in the chest, as you pull on your team colours, sitting taller with pride, the excitement really building.
While more players arrive and spectators start to take their seats, the time to get into the chairs has arrived, checking the tyre pressures and then checking them again, pushing the wheels into place and then gently pulling to make sure they are secure, a big tingle of adrenaline as you are finally sat in your chair. Firstly, the feet are tightly strapped down, then the next strap and then the next, you and your chair are now at one with each other, a deep breath and a shift from side to side and then the first push of the day, now you are ready.
On the court surrounded by your team mates, the coaches and captains giving directions to warm you up ahead of the first game, time moves slowly ahead of the warm up, there is a calm relaxed feeling flying around up until the moment the coach calls you, sitting side by side with team mates, listening intently as the coach and captain go over the already agreed plans, the starting five named and the first team shout echoes up to the roof and out the doors. Its game time!
The adrenaline really starts to beat around the body, looking up as you make your way into position on the court, smiling, cheering supporters line the room walls, the other teams turn and move closer, a nervous energy fills your stomach, that is until one of the opposition wheels up next to you, a friend you know very well, a smile and a quick ‘Hello’ followed by some giggles and a ‘Lets do this!’ suddenly all that nervous energy is directed and spun into excitement while you await the first whistle.
Its as that first whistle blows, you take a deep breath and your mind starts moving with the ball, working out equations and possibilities quicker than you could ever do off the court, noticing small changes in direction and over the shoulder head nods, anticipating and almost mind reading what your opponent’s plan to do next, whilst controlling your own actions and watching that of your team mates, but somehow you still manage the odd smile to the opposition, even a giggle here and there with them. Whistle after whistle, basket after basket that same excitement fills every player on court all muddled together with a drive to win, a passion to play your best and an overriding sense of enjoyment.
The RGK North Wales League is more than just a friendly league for the four clubs to compete, it is a development league, where relative beginners on the court, officials and coaches have the opportunity to play competitive games in a safe and welcoming environment.
Off the court the clubs are good friends, helping each other, sharing picnics, gossiping about the upcoming season and generally having a great time, with a little light-hearted banter being thrown around for good measure. On the court, the competition is real, each club wants to wheel away the victor! Every club goes to each round having planned and strategised for each game, learning a clubs strengths and style of play.
The team at WBNW (Wheelchair Basketball North Wales) are always on hand for support but also keenly watching new or developing players and coaches for future North Wales Knight possibilities.
This years RGK North Wales League had many close fought games, with victories going down to the last few seconds, buzzer beaters and heart stopping moments. The supporters as ever did North Wales proud, loudly and enthusiastically cheering all the clubs, sharing all the ups and downs of every game and applauding whether their team won or lost.
This year saw Conwy Thunder crowned winners of the RGK North Wales League, with a stunning 10 of 12 game win, with a strong and exciting team, Anglesey Hawks and Rhyl Raptors battled it out for 2nd, both fielding many new and developing players, Hawks were to take the 2nd place spot after an incredibly hard fought final game of the final round against Raptors. Caernarfon Celts finished 4th this year, showing great progression and development across the whole squad.
North Wales has a fantastic support network between all the clubs and WBNW, offering advice to both players and coaches all working together to develop the regional clubs and the Regional hubs national league teams The North Wales Knights.
With the final whistle blown, the day is complete, hands shakes, high fives and big hugs all around, the heart is still beating like the game is still in play, but the adrenaline that’s been pumping around is slowly lessening, as the blisters are tended to and the chairs disassembled, 4:30 pm and time to wheel back out of the door and into the sunshine, giggles and laughter filled faces towing slightly weary chairs back into the cars after a full on action packed, fun filled day with the North Wales wheelchair basketball family.