St Helens kicked off the inaugural tie of the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League against Wigan Warriors on Sunday.
The game took place at Robin Park Stadium, Wigan, in the build-up to the Betfred World Club Challenge between Wigan Warriors, and Australian NRL champions, Sydney Roosters.
The Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League gives people with learning disabilities and autism the opportunity to play an adapted version of Rugby League in a series of high-profile festivals and events.
The programme aims to promote the development of skills, confidence and positive experiences, and make a major statement about social inclusion. This is the first ever example of a professional sports league sharing its brand with a learning disability sports programme.
Saints are one of 12 founder clubs, who have established or will be developing Learning Disability Rugby League teams, the others being: Castleford Tigers, Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Leeds Rhinos, Salford Red Devils, Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves, Wakefield Trinity, Widnes Vikings, Newcastle Thunder and York City Knights.
Learning Disability Rugby League is a specially adapted non-competitive game, which focuses on encouraging participation and skills development. To support the success of this programme, Community Integrated Care is providing specialist training to all clubs, as well as direct investment into the sport.
The programme is set to fully launch with its first national festival at the Betfred Super League’s 2019 Dacia Magic Weekend event, which takes place at the iconic Anfield stadium, home of Liverpool FC, on May 25 and 26. This will provide one of the biggest ever crowds for a learning disability sport event.
St Helens captain, Mike Thompson, says: “I really enjoyed playing and being part of the first ever Wigan vs Saints Learning Disability Super League derby.
"I’m proud of every single one of our lads. We’re looking forward to building our confidence throughout the season as we get more games under our belt.”
Mark Adams, CEO of Community Integrated Care, says: “As a charity, we are committed to developing programmes that promote the health, happiness and social inclusion of people with learning disabilities and autism.
"The Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League is a shining example of this vision inclusive vision being brought to life.
"We have been thrilled with the reaction to the announcement of the League from people across the world. To have two historic teams, who have a firm commitment to supporting their local communities, in Wigan Warriors and St Helens, kick off the programme ahead of the World Club Challenge is an honour.
"This game was an unforgettable moment for all participants. Community Integrated Care would like to congratulate both teams for playing a great game and wish all other participating clubs the very best for the season ahead.”