PORTADOWN PANTHERS LEARNING DISABILITY TAG RUGBY CLUB
Founded September 2013
Chairman: Karen Flack Players: 31 (Age Range 6 -33)
Head Coach: Ian Flack Coaches/Volunteers: 16
Club Ambassador: Rory Best
The Club is established to promote healthy recreation through the provision of facilities for the playing of Tag Rugby and other recreational or leisure-time occupations in the interests of social welfare for the benefit of people with learning disabilities within Northern Ireland without regard to age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, disability, ethnic identity, nationality, religion or political opinion so that their conditions of life may be improved, and in particular to provide and make arrangements for tag rugby training, tournaments and competitions for the benefit of all involved.
Portadown Panthers play a non contact form of rugby, using Tags, and is for males and females, aged 6+ who have a Learning Disability.
Training takes place on Saturday mornings 09.30 -10.30 in Chambers Park, Portadown.
Training for the Panthers runs alongside the very popular and successful Mini Rugby section. Following training players, parents & friends will be welcome to come into the Goal Line Youth club, which is open until 11.15, where they will meet & socialise with the Mini Rugby players, officials & parents. (This is postponed due to Covid-19 at present but will hopefully resume in the future.)
In June 2013 Willie Gribben & two prospective parents visited Newforge Taggers to watch training and speak with Tim Craig, Disability & Inclusion Officer Ulster Rugby & Sam Mc Burney, Head Coach of the Taggers, to explore the possibilities of forming a club in Portadown. Follow up meetings, regarding setting up a club in Portadown, were held. It was agreed to proceed and that the club would be called Portadown Panthers and that the Panthers would operate alongside the PRFC Mini Rugby section on Saturday mornings starting at 09.30
Following a “trial Run” the Panthers were officially launched on 22nd September 2013 at Chambers Park. Attending were: Ulster & Ireland wing Andrew Trimble, Craigavon Deputy Mayor Councillor Colin McCusker, PRFC President Niall Collen & Ulster Disability & Inclusion Officer, Tim Craig along with players and coaches from Portadown Panthers & Newforge Taggers.
Portadown Panthers participate in regular Tag Rugby Festivals for people with Learning Disabilitieswhich are held in Belfast, Ballymena, Ballyclare & Portadown. They have also played in a Festival in Dublin. The Panthers have visited various parts of the UK & Ireland to play in the Wooden Spoon International tag Rugby Festival for people who have a Learning Disability – in 2013 this was held at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast; in 2014 we travelled to Shropshire in England; in 2015 we travelled to Limerick; 2016 was to Witney near Oxford. Approx 50 members- players, parents, coaches & volunteers travel to this event which involves teams from England, Wales, Scotland & Irelamd (North & South)
For the past 4 years a team representing the Panthers has played in half Time exhibition games during Ulster Pro 12/14 Matches – on 3 occasions they have played in front of crowds of 18000 spectators
During the Saturday morning training sessions some players, along with their coach, from the Primary 5 mini rugby squad join with the Panthers younger squad to play matches. This has proved very successful with both groups of players benefitting from this integrated approach.