Navy members take up the wheelchair rugby challenge

Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author), LSIS Paul McCallum (photographer)

Invictus members Army Warrant Officer Dennis Ramsay and Able Seaman Sam Maruldo with Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer CSC and Bar, RAN after a charity wheelchair rugby match during the 2014 GIO Insurance wheelchair rugby championships at Sydney Olympic Park. (photo: LSIS Paul McCallum)
Invictus members Army Warrant Officer Dennis Ramsay and Able Seaman Sam Maruldo with Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer CSC and Bar, RAN after a charity wheelchair rugby match during the 2014 GIO Insurance wheelchair rugby championships at Sydney Olympic Park.

When the 2014 GIO Wheelchair Rugby (also known as Fierce 4 Rugby) Championships were held in Sydney recently, the Royal Australian Navy was proud to have two of its members participating in the Celebrity Match.

Able Seaman Sam Maraldo was one of three current or former Australian Defence Force personnel who competed in the recent inaugural Invictus Games in London and then backed up to participate in the Celebrity Match, with Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer.

Wheelchair rugby, played on a basketball sized court between two teams of four players, can be described as a cross between basketball and ice hockey, with a bit of ‘Mad Max’ thrown in for good measure.

Wheelchair rugby is an intense, physical team sport for athletes of a wide range of ability, scored on a scale from 0.5 to 3.5 (having the most function), with each team allowed a maximum of eight points on the court at any time. It is the only wheelchair sport in which quadriplegics can compete.

After competing in the Invictus Games, where he won a silver medal in the novice teams recurve archery event, Able Seaman Maraldo was pleased to accept the invitation to play in the Celebrity Match, his first experience with wheelchair rugby.

“Wheelchair rugby really opens doors for the players – it was a lot of fun, and it was also a real eye-opening experience.

Invictus player Able Seaman Sam Maruldo reaches for the ball while former Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe tries to intercept during a charity wheelchair rugby match as part of the 2014 GIO Insurance wheelchair rugby championships at Sydney Olympic Park.

Invictus player Able Seaman Sam Maruldo reaches for the ball while former Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe tries to intercept during a charity wheelchair rugby match as part of the 2014 GIO Insurance wheelchair rugby championships at Sydney Olympic Park.

“The abilities of the players are impressive. There are some amazing young people who have an intense focus on what they can achieve.

“It has given me the focus to go on and keep playing sport,” Able Seaman Maraldo said.

Organised by Disability Sports Australia and Wheelchair Sports NSW, the 2014 GIO Wheelchair Rugby Championships were contested by teams from six Australian states and New Zealand.

Along with Rear Admiral Mayer, the Celebrity Match participants included the former Wallabies Captain Nathan Sharpe, the Head of Wheelchair Sports NSW, senior executives from GIO and players from teams that weren’t in the finals.

“To play against Nathan Sharpe, and to have athletes like Louise Savage watching on, was a great experience, as these are outstanding sportspeople in any arena.

“The support of the audience was amazing, and I only hope more and more people come along to watch wheelchair rugby events.

“It is a dynamic sport with incredible athletes participating,” Able Seaman Maraldo said.

For more information on wheelchair rugby, please visit www.fierce4rugby.com.au.

Additional imagery is also available at: http://images.navy.gov.au/S20143317.