Wheelchair basketball players have an unconquerable spirit

This article has photo gallery Published on LSIS Jason Tuffrey (author and photographer)

Location(s): Wollongong, New South Wales

The Invictus Games wheel chair basketball squad member Mark Urquhart looks to make a pass during a trial match against the Sutherland Sharks at Shellharbour City Stadium basketball courts, Wollongong. (photo: LSIS Jayson Tufrey)
The Invictus Games wheel chair basketball squad member Mark Urquhart looks to make a pass during a trial match against the Sutherland Sharks at Shellharbour City Stadium basketball courts, Wollongong.

Australia's Invictus Games wheelchair basketball squad had its first outing against teams in the New South Wales autumn league competition only a day after many of the members had sat in a wheelchair for the first time.

The Games, due to be held in Orlando, Florida, in May, are an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing.

The team, comprising members from Australian Defence Force, and Returned and Services League, was invited to make a wild-card entry into the social league game held at Shell Harbour city stadium in Wollongong on 3 April.

Formal selection of the team the previous day at Randwick Barracks saw some old hands from the 2014 team re-selected and the majority of the squad were new to the game.

In its first game against the Canberra Chargers, the team chased a deficit of only a few points for the majority of the four quarters, losing by only two goals - 16–20 at full-time.

Petty Officer Maritime Logistics – Supply  Chain Will Olsen who had spent nine months confined to a wheelchair during recovery from injuries, said he was impressed with how well the team performed.

“It was fantastic to see how well everybody gelled as a team, especially noting before today we had only trained together once,” he said.

“Yesterday was the first exposure to the game for a lot of these guys, and to see the transition from the start of that session to the end, and then on to the competitive environment of today, it was an amazing thing to be a part of.

“It was a unique situation I was proud to be a part of – everybody really showed the spirit of Invictus.”

Many spectators at the game said they found it hard to believe the team members had not been playing together for some time, considering the skills they displayed and their team cohesion.

Assistant coach Corporal Tim Boland said he was proud of the effort the squad put in.

“For a team that was only named yesterday this was a remarkable effort,” he said.

“Across the board there was a great level of skill on display considering how new some of the guys are to the game - the camaraderie was fantastic to see as well.

“This has been an excellent stepping stone leading into our final training camp in Brisbane in a couple of weeks; I can’t wait to see the guys perform in Florida in a month.”

The second game saw the team back on the court five minutes after its opening game.

The team scored three goals in quick succession against the Sutherland Sharks and managed to lead all the way through to three-quarter time.

The final score saw the team going down 21–30 at the final whistle as the home side rallied to score a few baskets in quick order.

This score wasn’t indicative of the tenacious effort shown by them for three-quarters of the match, and the members can hold their heads high as they set their sights on Orlando.

For more information about the games visit https://invictusgamesfoundation.org/games/2016