Southern Lions All Abilities Team Takes on NSW Rugby in All Abilities Tour

Mon, Mar 18, 2024, 1:09 AM
by RugbyWA Media
Photo: Angelene Leota Photography
Photo: Angelene Leota Photography

The Southern Lions are set to embark on their first All Abilities national tour, heading to New South Wales to take on Wollongong SMART rugby, Terrigal Rugby Club All Abilities and Western Harbour Rugby Club All Abilities   


From March 20, 2024 to March 27, 2024, twelve All Abilities players and eight support staff from Southern Lions will be participating in coaching sessions and exhibition matches, to showcase and promote Australia’s successful All Abilities rugby teams.  

The Southern Lions’ All Abilities team was the first of its kind in the state, established in 2017 by Michael Penhaligon. Penhaligon, who has worked with people with disabilities for over 50 years, established WA’s first All Abilities team to create more opportunities for mixed abilities sports, after receiving an email from a player who wanted to play rugby but couldn’t compete in against mainstream players. 

Eight years later, the team has grown from three players to a fully competitive team. 

“What our aim has been is to introduce rugby to people with disabilities in such a way that they become a very important part of the club.  

“From early beginnings, a lot of these players couldn’t even run straight, they didn’t know which way the try line was, and now we’re at the stage where we can play competitive rugby. It’s been unbelievable.” 

The Southern Lions and their community have continuously supported the growth of the team, embracing them on every level.  

“Southern Lions have given us the opportunity to grow at our rate and allowed us to become a very important part of the club,” Mike said.  

“Everything that the players do here at Southern Lions, socialising, club dinners, presentation nights, we are involved in. We aren’t excluded in any way, shape or form.

“These guys here, now can go out into the streets and meet players, could be in a pub, meet players from our club, and right away they’re recognised and they’re included, and really that’s what we’ve been about all along.” 


This steadfast club support allowed the team to compete in festivals and competitions, which set the foundations for their New South Wales tour. 

“We played last year in the World Golden Oldies festival in Perth, and from that, a lot of players in the Eastern States saw what we were doing and were so impressed.  

“Now there’s six teams starting up in NSW, and we’ve been invited over to show them what we do, and to talk about the growth of the game.” 

All Abilites team

The team is set to take off on the 20th of March 2024, and travel throughout New South Wales over seven days. They’ve got a lot of travel to do, Mike remarked, throughout the Central Coast, Sydney and Woolongong. 

“On the Sunday, we’re going to play an exhibition match against some Golden Oldies teams. The team is so excited.” 

For the team, the opportunity to travel is something they are looking forward to. The team’s vice-captain, Nikora, is feeling good about the competition. 

“I started playing rugby union when I was 7, in Timaru. When I turned 13, I started losing my eyesight, so I had to give up the game. 

“I’ve made lots of friends through the years I’ve been with Southern Lions. I’m looking forward to sussing out Sydney with them and seeing what’s around.”  

The team’s halfback, and the player that started the team, Andrew, is also looking forward to the competition, as well as all the travel. 

“I’m excited to just see what’s the differences between their teams and our team, and what they do different.” 

For parent, Dave Reed, the opportunity for his son, Will, to participate in training sessions and go on tour, is something he missed supporting when his son was younger. 

“For me, personally, it’s an opportunity I never had when Will was growing up. Being from New Zealand, all my friends who had rugby with all their kids, I’m just having it later. 

“With this group of guys here, it doesn’t matter what disability they have, they all look after each other, from the abled guys, right down to the less abled. 

“This club, Southern Lions, has embraced everybody here, so everybody here is part of this club, and that was from Day 1.” 


For Mike, going to New South Wales provides the team with opportunities they’ve never had, because of their disabilities. 

“To be honest, they would have never had the opportunity before All Abilities started. A lot of these guys wouldn’t have been able to fly to the Eastern States, so now they’re having the opportunity to do so. Without the All Abilities team, it wouldn’t have happened. 

“I think the tour will just reinforce how far they’ve come, because they’re going to see a lot of people who are new to the game. They’ll be able to make their own assessment of their growth.” 


Terrigal All Abilities Team

Terrigal Trojans All Abilities Team

One of the teams the Southern Lions will be visiting is the Terrigal Trojans AB’s. A new program, the Trojan’s Secretary and All Abilities Coordinator, Allison Farrelly, said the team is excited to meet the Southern Lions. 

“This year is the first season for us, so we are thrilled to have the Southern Lions come and do a training session with us and help us get on the right track. 

“We currently have 6 registered All Abilities Players and 4 Golden Oldies to help them out.  

“Angie Dickinson and Larissa Gunderson are the ladies who have driven this project for the last 8 months to get it off the ground. Terrigal Rugby Club is super excited to welcome them, and we hope to see not only our team grow but hopefully inspire other clubs to get on board.  

“We have been running a very small, modified rugby program for Special Needs Kids since 2020 so to have a senior team is fantastic.” 

The Southern Lions All Abilities team is one of three All Abilities teams in Western Australia, with both Perth Bayswater and Wanneroo Rugby Clubs now also featuring All Abilities teams.  

For RugbyWA’s Inclusion Coordinator, Ashley Munrowd-Harris, the growth in clubs and the opportunity for the Southern Lions to tour in New South Wales shows how far the All Abilities program has come, and what it can achieve. 

“All Abilities has expanded from a single club to establishing three All Abilities Rugby Hubs. This expansion across Perth has been able to enhance accessibility for all individuals to play rugby, and increase inclusion within the club space. 

“This tour serves as a clear demonstration of how the All Abilities team has truly flourished at Southern Lions. For some players, the opportunity to tour over to the east is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, showcasing the tangible results of their dedication and effort.  

“Traveling over East showcases that there is a market out there for All Abilities rugby. There are people within our state and across the nation that want the opportunity to play, playing sport is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and we aim to achieve this here at RugbyWA.”

The New South Wales All Abilities tour is taking place from March 20-27, 2024.  


The Southern Lions All Abilities team will also be playing at the Western Force v. Crusaders match at HBF Park on April 20, 2024. 


For more information regarding All Abilities rugby in Western Australia, visit, or contact Inclusion Coordinator, Ashley Munrowd-Harris (