We developed a world-first modified form of rugby union specifically designed to create long-term participation pathways for girls, boys and young adults with learning and perceptual disabilities (LPD).
In 2017, after three years of growing our Modified Rugby Program (MRP) at six clubs in three divisions across South East Queensland, the Rugby Australia (RA) endorsed the MRP as a new division of rugby in Australia.
The MRP uses the existing systems, structures and communities of rugby clubs to create a place where children with LPD and their families feel safe, are understood, experience regular success and where they can belong into the long term.
Rather than creating a standalone ‘special’ rugby format, GingerCloud created specific allied health, leadership and coaching frameworks that allow clubs to collaboratively deliver the MRP.
We developed the program by referencing key research areas and targeted family and community recommendations as outlined in the 2011 World Health Organization and World Bank’s World report on disability.
Central to MRP’s success are the on-field teenage and university-aged PlayerMentors who help their MRP players play the game. All MRP players are individually matched with their own PlayerMentor.
The MRP laws consider the specific needs of players and are modified based on sensory, attention, communication, social, vestibular and proprioceptive requirements.
We train PlayerMentors in inclusion and leadership through our GingerCloud Leadership Program.
We also pay MRP team coaches to ensure coaching quality, consistency and alignment with GingerCloud’s value set.
Speech Pathology Australia identifies 14 per cent of school-aged children as having LPD which significantly impacts their ability to participate in community activities like team sport.
This creates isolation and reduced opportunities for physical activity, and less opportunity for community integration for their families.
GingerCloud’s Megan and Anthony Elliott founded the program in 2013/14 when they began working with the nearby Brothers Rugby Club to help their son Max gain access to a sports option that would appropriately cater for his autism and complex language disability.
Concurrently, Queensland rugby union clubs were seeking to offer more inclusive options for the community.
Between 2014 and 2017, the MRP grew from 16 participants to more than 180 across three divisions and six clubs.
In 2018, MRP has expanded into Townsville and Canberra and added new Clubs in Brisbane and Toowoomba.
New club enquiries have come from all states in Australia, plus internationally from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Japan.
In 2016, RA recognised the MRP through the Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award. The MRP became a finalist in World Rugby’s Rugby Character Award.
World Rugby also produced and globally broadcast a documentary about the MRP in 2016.