Ones to Watch in Wheelchair Rugby at the London 2012 Paralympics
by Nathan Bragg
Ryley Batt: Ryley “The Batman” Batt is widely considered to be the best player in the world. His speed and raw power is unmatched. A real heavy hitter, he gives teams fits at both ends of the floor and takes doubles and occasionally triple teams to contain. If the Paralympics had an MVP, he would be a favourite, but there is plenty of rugby left to play.
Ryan Scott and Naz Erdem: These two 0.5s are veteran members of the Australian team and will be integral to the success of a hi-lo line-up. They’ll do the dirty work to pave a path for either Chris Bond and Batt. Their performances may not show up in box score, but their contributions will be huge for the Aussies going forward.
Lars Mertens : Lars is considered to be one the best 3.5s in the world, and is one of the best players in Europe. His speed and ability to change direction allow him to get up and down the court at a very fast pace for an easy score. He tallied 172 goals at the 2010 World
Trevor Hirschfield: The Canadian 1.0 is known as one of the best low-point players in the world. He should pop a few opponents’ tires by the end of pool play. Possesses great speed for a 1.0 combined with an improving inbound. Can use freakishly long arms to disrupt passes. Should be a featured on a few Canadian line-ups.
David Willsie: The Canadian co-captain is still going strong into his forties, and brings near unmatched experience to the Canadian team. He still has great pace, and you can count on him to make the right play, whether it’s a goal, a pass, or a pick and roll. Look for Dave when Canada opts to go with a balanced line, as that’s what he brings to the floor.
Ryden Sallem: A former member of the French National Wheelchair Basketball team, Sallem has great power in his push and range in his pass. He is one many 3.5s who will be making an impact at the London 2012 Paralympics, and he will most likely be France’s primary ball-handler and goal-scorer.
Aaron Phipps: The mobile 3.5 has been a catalyst for the British attack as of late, and will certainly look to come out hot and light up the scoreboard. Combines great straight-line speed with near unmatched agility. The former marathoner will be looking to make his mark on home turf.
Jonathan Coggan: A veteran of the British team and one of the world’s premier 0.5, look for Coggan to be disrupting opposing players and paving a clear path for his offensive players including Phipps. After finishing just outside of the medal tables at the past two Paralympics, Coggan will have added motivation to get onto the podium in London.
Daisuke Ikezaki One of the top scorers at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, Ike (as he’s called) will be Japan’s likely counter to players like Aaron Phipps. Ike possesses superb speed and quickness, and will hook up with one of Japan’s two Shins. As explosive as they come in transition, Ike will sure be a handful for teams.
The Shins: Japan boasts a pair of Shins in Shin Nakazato and Shin Shimikawa. Both have experience at the highest level and both will be weapons for Japan, whether they’re scoring goals or attacking the ball. A nice 1-2 punch when they’re paired together. Either of them may also slide alongside Daisuke Ikezaki as well .
Mikael Wahlberg: The best 0.5 at the 2010 WWRC is a key piece of Sweden’s hi-low line-up and has a phenomenal inbound for a 0.5. Great court speed, one of the leaders of the Swedish team and definitely someone to watch.
Tobias Sandberg: Sweden’s quickest player, Sandberg is a great scorer. A key player on Sweden’s European Championship run and a solid performer at the 2010WWRC. Look him to challenge the groups high-pointers and lay a few guys out.
Will Groulx: Considered by many as one of the best mid-pointers in the world, expect to see Will often in USA’s line-ups. His speed and reach allow him to match up with higher class players confidently, and he’s a vocal leader. Will is capable of lighting up the scoreboard while flashing his opponents his trademarked smile as he pushes by.
Nick Springer: A defensive animal, watch for Nick to lock down offensive threats. Excellent side-to-side agility and high hitting power are some of his major attributes. You’ll hear his voice from before the tip-off all the way until the final whistle.