Thanks to support from Derbyshire Freemasons, Derby RFC were able to send a team to Cork in Ireland to take part in the International Mixed Ability Rugby tournament (IMART) in June 2022 which featured 28 teams from 14 nations and over 1000 players. With Munster’s Musgrave Park providing the backdrop, the tournament epitomised all that inclusive sport can and should be.
Mike Hawkes, team coach of the Derby Bucks explained, ‘From our first session, IMART was always the stretch target. To be here and to see the lads so capably representing the club is the most rewarding experience of my 20 years involved in rugby. This wouldn’t have been possible without the Derbyshire Freemasons, so thanks must go to them for believing in us from such an early stage’.
Mixed Ability sports involves both disabled and non-disabled players participating together on the same team in the full version of the sport. In the case of Rugby Union this means full contact, in teams of 15 vs. 15 over 80 minutes. An ethos of ‘tackle who needs to be tackled’ is used throughout, ensuring the intensity of the game reflects the playing ability of the individual in possession. It is important to note that ‘Mixed Ability’ is not a sensitive rewording of the term ‘disability’. All players on a team such as the Derby Bucks are ‘Mixed Ability’ and it refers to the variety of sporting ability across the pitch.
Throughout the week the Derby Bucks were fortunate to test themselves against opposition such as Los Pumpas and the Maras XV from Argentina whilst also playing more local opposition such as Malone Tornadoes. Despite being pipped 22-21 in the Bowl final by the Banbridge Barbarians it is fair to say that IMART 2022 was a life changing experience for many members of the team.
Former team captain Sandy Varley perhaps said it best, ‘I’ve had a tough time mentally over the last few years, I can honestly say this tournament and this team have helped me feel like myself again’.
Steven Varley, Provincial Grand Master for Derbyshire Freemasons and Sandy’s father, himself a very passionate Rugby supporter and former player, helped in organising and overseeing the sponsorship for the trip. He commented:
'I was so excited to be in Cork for the IMART event and to witness so many men and women of differing abilities being involved in a sport I love. To see the Derby Bucks kit, emblazoned with the Square and Compasses and proudly stating the team were sponsored by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire, it struck me just what Freemasonry can do in the community. A number of individual Freemasons also supported us by providing kitbags, hoodies, T-shirts, water bottles and polo shirts and we are eternally grateful to them for that support. As a result, we were approached and contacted by Freemasons and rugby players from far and wide across the globe during the week’.