Bay of Plenty residents will no longer have to travel to Hamilton to compete in wheelchair rugby with the introduction of a national tournament in Tauranga.
Called the WRC1 Bash, the first leg of New Zealand Rugby Foundation wheelchair rugby competition starts at the TECT Arena in Baypark this weekend.
The Paralympic sport is new to the region and holding the competition is the first step in solidifying the sport's presence in the Bay of Plenty, Parafed Bay of Plenty CoachForce development officer Sophie Jackson said.
Participants previously had to travel as far as Hamilton to play in a Waikato club and said by localising, the sport will provide local players with a stronger hunger for the game.
"We are developing the sport locally with a vision of becoming a really competitive region.
"Hosting a tournament like this gives local players the best environment to test their mettle against experienced players from around the country and hopefully develop a hunger for more."
The tournament is being run alongside Parafed 'Have a Go Days' today and tomorrow, where people with physical disabilities can attempt a range of sports, from blokarting and wheelchair basketball to rugby, table tennis and boccia.
"We have been working hard in the Bay Of Plenty community to establish networks and programmes to cater for people with all sorts of physical disability. Now is our chance to show them off and make sure people are making the most out of what's on offer."
Wheelchair rugby co-ordinator Neil Cudby said the 35 players who had registered this weekend would be split into five equitable teams to ensure the scores remained as close as possible.
"Because the sport here is brand new Bay of Plenty doesn't have a good team, so we've endeavoured to even up the teams. If teams competed on a regional basis then Auckland would probably finish first, second and fourth."
Round two of the wheelchair rugby competition is on June 2-3 in Wellington, with the third round in Christchurch in mid-July before the August 10-12 nationals in Auckland.
Wheelchair rugby draw:
Saturday: 11am Panthers v Bengals, Eagles v Ravens. 1pm Bengals v Ravens, Eagles v Bears. 3pm: Panthers v Bears.
Sunday: 9.30am Bengals v Bears, Panthers v Ravens. 11.30pm: Panthers v Eagles, Ravens v Bears. 1.30pm: Bengals v Eagles.
Bengals: Marty Payne, Neil Cudby, Jordan Tito, Nafi Lefono (capt), Andy Phillis, Calvin Hewitt.
Panthers: Catherine Gregory, Brad Haywood, George Nepata, Seleti Moataane, Maia Aaim, Dan Buckingham (capt), Brendon Uncles.
Ravens: Robert Wilson, Jai Waite (capt), Chris Lay, Clayton Utai, Alan Signal, Paul Fallon.
Bears: Phil Kelly, Chris Moore, Adam Wakeford, Gary McMurray (capt), Codie Vincent, Robert Verner, Barney Konerferenisi.
Eagles: Tim Young, Gavin Roulton, Phil Spring, Robbie Hewitt, Trevor Borland, Dave Fontaine, Steve Smith (capt).