Wigan Warriors' Matt Wooloff discusses how wheelchair rugby league has allowed him to live his dream after a battle with cancer

Wigan Warriors’ Matt Wooloff says wheelchair rugby league has allowed him to live his dream of playing sport at the top level.
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The 29-year-old thought his chance had been taken away from him following a battle with cancer as a teenager, but remained determined to follow his passion.

After discovering the wheelchair format of rugby league, he has gone on to represent the USA at the recent World Cup in England, as well as becoming a key part of Wigan’s side.

“This sport means everything to me,” Wooloff said.

Matt WooloffMatt Wooloff
Matt Wooloff
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“I played rugby union as a kid but it was sort of taken away from me, but I never lost the passion.

“I had leukaemia when I was a teenager, and that destroyed the bones in my ankles.

“I was out of sport for a while, but in 2014 I just decided I wanted to try wheelchair sport.

“Rugby league was the closest thing available to rugby, so I went along to Swindon and played for them for a couple of years.

“I fell in love with it.

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“I then moved to North Wales and played against the Leyland Warriors a few times before they merged with Wigan.

“I knew they were the real deal, and I wanted to be part of that team because I wanted to become a better player.

“I would train every day of the week if the sessions were on.

“It was always my dream to play any form of rugby at the top level, and I achieved that at the World Cup.

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“There’s a picture of me with my dad after the Scotland game, and it still cheers me up when I see that.

“It’s nice to see the sport getting the attention and the recognition, because it’s what some of these athletes deserve, but the main focus is to give more people the opportunity.

“It’s helped me a lot, and anyone who has that drive and passion who sees the sport can think that they can do it.

“It’s wonderful to see people come down to Wigan and find that passion again- it’s my favourite thing about it.”

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Wooloff credits his success in rugby league to the person who helped come to terms with his diagnosis as a teenager, as well as instilling him with a mentality that has helped him to follow his dreams.

“I had a friend when I was first going through my cancer,” he added.

“He was called Alex Lewis.

“I was introduced to him in a pit of despair after my diagnosis.

“He was the one who talked me through the procedures and everything that was going to happen to me, and brought me out of that pit

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“He had this amazing philosophy of not letting anything negative ever touch his mood or ever touch his goals.

“He really instilled that into me, and I really owe a big part of everything I’ve achieved to him.

“Unfortunately he relapsed and passed away.

“He remains my biggest influence and my guiding light.”

The Warriors’ wheelchair side are in action this weekend.

They take on Halifax Panthers at the University of Birmingham (K.O. 4pm), as part of ‘on the road round,’ which sees all six Super League sides appear at the same venue.