Australia eyes clean sweep over Japan
The Australian Wheelchair Rugby Team has capped a memorable day on the journey to London 2012 by wrapping up the five-match test series against Japan in Sydney.
With two games still to play, the Australians hold an unassailable 3-0 series lead after performing brilliantly today in front of a boisterous crowd at Sydney Olympic Park’s Sports Centre.
Australia clinched the series with a 55-54 in game three, after posting a 63-47 win in the series opener and a 63-60 victory in what was a torrid game two.
“The whole team will gain a lot of confidence from that,” said Brad Dubberley, Australian wheelchair rugby coach.
“It’s been a great experience for the players. Having thousands of people here in the crowd plus all the media, Jimmy Barnes singing at the opening ceremony, the noisy atmosphere and all the hype, it’s exactly what we needed at this stage of our preparations for London.
“This was a good taste of what the boys can expect at the Paralympics, and I’m pleased with how they all handled it.
“To put on a display like that in front of a home crowd in a Paralympic year was fantastic, especially against Japan who is an extremely good team.”
The tournament started in inspiring fashion with Jimmy Barnes and daughter Mahalia delivering a rousing performance of “No second prize.”
Both teams seemed to take heed of the advice and exchanged a flurry of brutal hits in game one’s opening exchanges.
But after Japan fought hard to stay within a goal of the Australians who led 14-13 at quarter time, the home side thrilled the large crowd in attendance by outscoring the world number three ranked Japanese outfit 59-34 in the final three quarters to post a 16-goal victory.
It was a sign of things to come in the second match as Australia led at every break on the way to a 63-60 victory, but they did not have things all their own way in the third and final match of the day.
Fighting to keep the series alive, Japan led 16-15 at quarter time, 29-27 at the long break and 43-42 at the final change.
It took some outstanding defence in the dying stages from Ben Newton, Chris Bond, Naz Erdem and Jason Lees to wrestle the ascendancy back in favour of the Aussies.
Japan was gallant, but simply couldn’t find an answer as the Australians showed why they are ranked two in the world and highly rated to push for the London 2012 Paralympic gold medal.
Dubberley said the performance in game three under a lot of pressure showed his men were moving in the right direction.
“Our new guys pretty much won that game for us. We gave our experience guys a good rest after the two tough games earlier in the day, and it was great that the newer players did the job,” Dubberley said.
“Going back a year ago, if we were in the same position I would have been really nervous. But I had the confidence to stick with the new guys and they repaid that confidence.
“Come the Paralympics, this experience will be really valuable.”
The tournament concludes tomorrow with game four at 10:30am tomorrow morning before the concluding game at 1pm.
Earlier in the day, the Australian Paralympic Committee officially announced the 11-strong Australian Wheelchair Rugby Team for London 2012.
“The Australian wheelchair rugby team has sat just behind the USA for a number of years now and it’s time things changed,” said Jason Hellwig, Australian Paralympic Committee CEO and Chef de Mission of the 2012 Australian Paralympic Team.
“The Australian wheelchair rugby program is managed by the APC and we have really focused on bringing our national team up to the level needed to win the gold medal in London. Wheelchair rugby will certainly be one of the sports not to be missed at the Games and I’m confident Australia can go all the way.”
“While some athletes have plenty of Games experience like Greg Smith, Nazim Erdem and Ryan Scott, others are fresh-faced and chomping at the bit to get to London. It makes for an explosive and dynamic team.”
Watch the Webcasts live HERE
Australia v Japan
International Wheelchair Rugby Test Series
Sydney Olympic Park State Sports Centre
4-5 May 2012
Friday, 4 May
Game 1: AUS 63 – JPN 47
Game 2: AUS 63 – JPN 60
Game 3: AUS 55 – JPN 54
Saturday, 5 May (Sydney, Australia Time)
10:30 Game 4
13:00 Game 5
Article by Tim Mannion and provided courtesy of www.paralympic.org.au