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Victorians asked to lead the way
While NSW holds a four year streak winning streak in the Wheelchair Rugby National League, it is the influence of Victoria’s best that could have the biggest impact on Australia’s fortunes at this week’s Wheelchair Rugby Four Nations in Sydney.
With six Victorians representing Australia at the tournament, they will have the biggest bearing on whether Australia can quell the threat of three of the best wheelchair rugby teams in the world – Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand – and win the trophy in front of their home crowd.
The International Wheelchair Rugby Four Nations tournament begins on Wednesday April 28 at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre and runs until Sunday, May 2.
Brad Dubberley, head coach of the Australian Paralympic Committee’s Wheelchair Rugby Program said he generally prefers the team to comprise a selection of players from across the country to reflect a more national side. But he admits having more than half his players from Victoria is turning out to be a positive for the team.
“It can be an advantage. The six Victorian guys all train together for the national competition, all know each other well and go out together, and there are always battles going on between them to get the best out of each other,” Dubberley said.
“While I generally like to have a better mixed national team, at the end of the day, we need and we have the best team to get the best results.”
Wheelchair Rugby continues to grow in popularity in Victoria with large numbers of players consistently turning up to local training and competitions. Four players from the silver medal winning Beijing side are also from Victoria.
At this week’s Wheelchair Rugby Four Nations tournament in Sydney, the Australian team’s new faces, all from Victoria, will get their chance to step up in a bid to secure their place for the upcoming World Championships in September and the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
The tournament will present Josh Hose, Antonio Vecchio and Jason Lees with the chance to play international Wheelchair Rugby on home soil for the very first time. The trio all made their debuts for Australia during last year’s Asia Oceania Championships in which Australia took the gold medal, ensuring World Championship qualification in the process.
Victorian Andrew Harrison has also made his way back into the side after not having played an international match for Australia since 2007.
“I just missed out on selection to the Beijing squad in 2008 so I want to work hard to make sure I’m part of that team at the London Games in 2012. I love the mateship of the team and I love the sport and after last year’s gold medal at the Asia Oceania Championships, I’m excited to play more international matches,” Harrison said.
Beginning on Wednesday 28 April, each team will play each other twice (four games per day) over the course of the five day tournament, followed by semi-finals on Saturday and the medals rounds on Sunday.