The Rugby Business Network recently supported the Murderball Rugby Tournament at St Mary’s College in Twickenham and the Murder Ball black tie dinner dance at Twickenham Stadium. The events were fundraisers for injured rugby player Paul Barker and for the wheelchair rugby teams from London and Leicester.

Colm Hannon

Murderball Rugby

The daytime event was helped by the Matt Hampson Foundation (which also supported the evening event and helped Paul throughout his injury and illness) and Maxi Muscle. It was also run by a combination of ex-Esher players and current Leicester and London WR players. Organisations represented in the tournament included an RBN team, a Marriott team and two teams from HSBC.

Murderball Rugby

Murderball Rugby

Sales Director for EMEA from Marriott, Ian Leat, said: “Learning to play wheelchair rugby from the guys from the London and Leicester wheelchair rugby teams was great fun – as well as being challenging. We do team building exercises a lot at Marriott and this was one of the best team building experiences I have been involved with. It’s a great sport for both sexes and a lot more physically demanding than any of us had expected”.

Murderball Rugby

Murderball Rugby

Murderball Rugby

The winners of the tournament were HSBC Rugby Club who were quicker and fitter than the competition and easily disposed of the RBN team in the final. HSBC Thames Valley team also put in some fantastic performances but were outperformed by their HSBC Rugby Club colleagues. Each team had a player from either Leicester or London as a coach and mentor for the day.

The trophy and medals were presented by England Sevens players John Break and Mark Odejobi. Mark Odejobi said: “I spent time in one of the rugby wheelchairs and it is a totally different type of fitness and great fun. Much harder than it looks!”

Paul Barker was released from hospital and timed a break in his chemotherapy to present the trophy to HSBC Rugby Club. He said he hoped to be well enough to play in the tournament next year.

The daytime tournament was a huge success and the start of an annual wheelchair rugby tournament for able-bodied people from corporate organisations. The event will fund both wheelchair rugby teams. If you would like to play next year then get in touch with us at the RBN and we’ll tell you how to enter a team from your company.

The evening event, entitled ‘The Murder Ball’, was kicked off with an inspiring drinks reception in the England changing rooms and out on the pitchside at England Rugby HQ. The reception was hosted by England Captain Chris Robshaw and England prop Joe Marler, with music provided by the London-Irish resident band ‘Biblecode Sundays’ who added a great atmosphere to accompany the drinks.

Murderball Rugby

Murderball Rugby

Following the drinks reception, the 550 attendees were seated for what was one of the best charity events ever hosted at the stadium. Matt Hampson, Chris Robshaw and Joe Marler gave their praise to Paul Barker and Esher rugby club and many of the Quins players bought seats at the event. Whilst they had a dry night and an early finish they enjoyed every minute of celebrating with Paul and their friends from the Quins feeder club, Esher. Joe Marler told a funny (but unrepeatable) story about Paul Barker when he played with him as a younger player on loan to Esher, whilst Chris Robshaw discussed the power of the rugby community and looked towards the summer tour to New Zealand and to the World Cup. The MC and interviewer for the evening was the BBC’s John Inverdale who was Paul Barker’s landlord for eight years. John is a well-known supporter of rugby and related charities and causes and was a fantastic presenter throughout the evening.

Paul Barker

Murderball Rugby

Following the opening Q&A, classical singer and official England Rugby anthem singer Laura Wright gave a mesmerising performance. She was a huge hit with the audience who loved the English Rose and all she does for the game of rugby.

Paul Barker gave a speech from his wheelchair talking about the funnier side of his amputation and people’s reaction to it. South African Paul told how after he heard he was losing his leg his mother-in-law found him crying and comforted him by saying he could be like that other South African guy the Blade Runner! Paul’s speech was funny and heartfelt and he thanked his friends and family – especially his parents, parents-in-law and his partner Leah who have cared for him in their home. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Murderball Rugby

Murderball Rugby

Later there was a brief Q&A from Paralympian discus thrower Dan Greaves who talked about his love for rugby and the importance of positive thinking when injuries and illness present themselves. Rugby player James Russell, who is famous for playing able-bodied rugby with only one leg, presented his false leg for Dan Greaves to drink a pint of ale from – but Dan said that he was preparing for the Common Wealth games and asked John Inverdale to drink it on his behalf. The audience chanted until John took up the challenge and Paul Barker said that the sight of his old friend and former landlord reluctantly taking on the challenge made his night.

Murderball Rugby

Murderball Rugby

The auction was a huge success and there were dozens of amazing items offered by friends of Paul and friends of Esher Rugby Club. There was a final and impromptu speech by wheelchair rugby player and Paralympian Rob Tarr, who gave an inspirational few words of wisdom to Paul about being positive, working hard and never giving up. This ended the night with a standing ovation.

Murderball Rugby

The band Signals Red and DJ Dave Charles helped a packed house to dance the night away. The following day, as everyone else suffered with their hangovers, Paul Barker went back into hospital to continue his chemotherapy.

If you would like to help Paul Barker you can do so by clicking the ‘donate’ button on: www.themurderball.com

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