Wednesday, April 7, 2004
By Frank Ward
PHILADELPHIA - While playing rugby in September, 1985, Tom Hamill suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed. But, that injury didn’t deter him or end his rugby career.
The Swedesboro, N.J., resident joined the Magee Eagles wheelchair rugby team in 1996 and currently serves as team manager and assistant coach, often running the team’s practices. For the first time in its 14-year history, the team has qualified for the United States Quad Rugby Association Division II National Championships, scheduled for April 23-25 in Louisville, Ky.
Hamill, who also serves as commissioner of the United States Quad Rugby Association, is proud of the team’s accomplishments.
“It’s been a total team effort to qualify for the national championships,” says Hamill, an attorney who specializes in disability law. “We have all suffered injuries and are unable to walk, but those injuries didn’t take away our desire to compete. Wheelchair rugby gives us an outlet for our competitive juices. Making the national championships is a testament to the team’s commitment to winning.”
Sponsored by Magee Rehabilitation Hospital and the Philadelphia Eagles, the Magee Eagles went 12-2 in the regular season. They placed third in the Atlantic Region Sectional playoffs, held March 19-21 in Sarasota, Fla., to earn a spot in the Division II national championships.
Wheelchair rugby is an exciting contact sport played on a regulation basketball court. Four players per team are allowed on the court at one time. The goal is to move the ball down the court and cross the goal with possession of the ball when the first two wheels cross the goal line. Players may carry the ball, but must dribble or pass the ball within ten seconds.
The Magee Eagles have a number of players from throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The team, which competes in tournaments all along the East Coast, is open to anyone in the community with a disability. One of the ways Magee finances the team is through its annual Night of Champions event, which raises funds for all of the hospital’s wheelchair sports teams. This year’s event will take place Friday, May 7, from 7 10 p.m. at the Sheet Metal Union Workers Hall on S. Columbus Blvd. in Philadelphia. Brad Childress, Phil Martelli, Billy Cunningham and other sports figures are scheduled to attend.
Magee Rehabilitation Hospital is the Philadelphia region’s leading sponsor of sports and leisure activities for individuals with disabilities. Magee has teamed with a number of local professional sports franchises to form the Magee Sixers Spokesmen wheelchair basketball team, the Magee Phillies wheelchair softball team and the Magee Freedoms wheelchair tennis team.
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