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York RLFC Wheelchair star Japes reflects on Scotland debut

As birthday weekends go, York RLFC Wheelchair star Calum Japes’ 24th earlier this month was pretty special.

Just a day before turning 24, Japes made his international debut for Scotland, coming off the bench to assist two tries in a 64-52 victory over Wales in the Celtic Cup - the nation’s first Wheelchair win since 2019.

Having only stepped onto the Wheelchair court for the first time a year earlier as one of York’s inaugural players, the winger admitted there were plenty of nerves heading into his Scotland bow.

“It was a very exciting weekend, although I was a little bit nervous stepping into that environment and earning my first cap,” said the Hull Road resident, who qualifies for Scotland through his Scottish mother.

“It was a long journey as I went up to Scotland to see my Grandparents on Thursday before going to Edinburgh on the Friday to meet up with the team and then going across to Galway on the ferry.

“And then the next morning, it was matchday. I didn’t play in the first game against Ireland, but the coaching staff said that I’d get to show what I’m made of against Wales.

“I was on the bench for the game against Wales and after about 15 minutes, I came on. I didn’t score but I set up a couple of quick-fire tries, so I thought I made an impact on the game.

“That was Scotland’s first win in Wheelchair rugby league for about five years, so I came off thinking, ‘The reason that we won was because I played!’” laughed Japes.

If Japes’ weekend sounds busy then that neatly fits into his non-stop lifestyle. Alongside working in retail, he is also a self-employed gardener who plays and coaches Wheelchair basketball alongside his Wheelchair rugby league commitments.

As someone living with Cerebral palsy and a hearing impairment, Japes’ story is an inspirational tale of resilience.

“I’m doing too much really!” he laughed. “When I joined York, I’d been playing Wheelchair basketball for many years before, so I was looking to use those skills in another sport.

“From the start, Ryan (Innes), our Head Coach, had real confidence in me, because of my basketball background and my speed in the wheelchair.

“He gave me confidence in my carries in the wheelchair, rather than just looking for a pass.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without Ryan’s guidance alongside the help from Steve (Spruyt, Assistant Coach) and Dawn (York RLFC’s Foundation Inclusion Officer).

“Ryan and Steve have been amazing to work with and have said that they were so glad that I came to the Club and have helped inspire young people, which is so nice to hear.”

For anyone thinking about participating in Wheelchair rugby league, Japes has a simple message.

“Come and have a go!” he said. “It may look a little scary, but you’ll really enjoy it.

“You can build your confidence, not only in your ability within the sport but within yourself and your ability to try new things.”

For more information on how to get involved with York RLFC's Wheelchair team, click HERE!


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