The Eastmoor Dragons community club in Wakefield will be a familiar and welcoming venue for the Festival format which has been central to the development of PDRL over the last five years – but hasn’t been practical since 2019 because of the pandemic.
There will be six teams in the Physical Disability Super League – the original pioneers Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves, plus Wakefield Trinity hosting the Eastmoor Festival as part of the club’s first Inclusion Weekend, their neighbours Castleford Tigers, Wigan Warriors and newcomers Bradford Bulls.
At each Festival, each team will play two fixtures – and with a number of other Festivals arranged through the summer, by the end of the season each of the six teams will have played the other five twice, culminating in a Finals Day Festival.
This year there will also be a focus on junior players, with specific development activity at the Festivals.
For John Welch, the Chair of England PDRL, it is the arrival of Bradford plus two more clubs who will join Warrington Wire in a development setting for 2022 – Leigh Centurions and Salford Red Devils – which underlines the potential for the future.
“This is our fifth year since we started PDRL, which is amazing,” said Welch, who was one of the key figures in the development of the Warrington team which played Leeds in 2018.
“And we’re back to Festivals after the disruption of the pandemic, with three new teams competing in 2022 – Bradford Bulls, Leigh Centurions and Salford Red Devils.
“We’re just getting a bigger player pool all the time, and we want to be pushing right across the UK, not just the M62 corridor.”
2022 also holds the appeal of a PDRL World Cup, to be played alongside the Rugby League World Cup in England this autumn – and Shaun Briscoe, the former England international who is now head coach of the PDRL Community Lions, has already held one successful session with his squad at Hopwood Hall.
“That’s extra fruit on the tree,” added Welch. “Our players now know they have the opportunity to represent their country. But we don’t want that to affect the spirit the game has always been played in.
“Good luck to everyone taking part this year – enjoy yourself, and let’s have a great season.”
The action at Eastmoor starts at 11am.