The Oshawa Vikings were the first team from Canada to go to the IMART competition in Cork, Ireland. They only started training contact rugby from Jan 2022 until they left in June 2022 for approx. 6 months. Given the short time to train, this team surpassed expectations by coming in second as World Cup Finalists in the tournament beating out 22 other teams from around the World. Mixed ability sport is playing on a team where those with and without disabilities are treated the same and treated as equals. It gained provincial, national, and international attention on many media platforms. Never in my life did I expect to see and experience this moment making it that much harder when my son returned to sport here in Ontario where many of his leagues consist of players only with disabilities. It took full inclusion of sport to a whole new level. It brought accessibility and inclusion to new heights both off and on the field to the point that many of the team members have been employed by their fellow teammates.
Over the last 18 months, the Oshawa Vikings Rugby Club, led by Johnny Watkins, piloted and successfully ran a mixed ability rugby program in conjunction with MASC and Abilities Centre that introduced rugby to a large community of athletes who had never been given the chance to play rugby. While that accomplishment was amazing enough, the opportunity to select, train and tour Canada’s 1st ever Contact Mixed Ability Rugby Team for participation in the 2022 IMART Mixed Ability Rugby World Cup in Cork Ireland, is a moment in inclusion that is unrivalled.