No. 1 Australia prepare for busy month

The wheelchair rugby team will take-on some of the top teams around the world in London, then shortly later look to defend their regional title. 12 Oct 2015
Men in wheelchairs with a big championships trophy

Australia with the trophy - 2014 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships

ⒸBrian Mouridsen
By Beau Greenway | For the IPC

Australia can show why they are the No. 1 ranked wheelchair rugby team with two big competitions in October – the BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge that begin Monday (12 October) and the Asia-Oceania Championships two weeks later.


Australia already qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, following their win at the 2014 World Championships. But that does not change their approach to this month’s competitions, said Naz Erdem.


“The goal is still to win every competition we play in and we’re going to try different things when we go to London and Japan,” Erdem said. “We’ve been training hard, but we’re sure all the other teams have been doing the same and will be trying to work out how to beat us.”


The World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge features seven of the top-10 teams in the world and will be held at the Copperbox Arena, the same venue where the sport was played at the London 2012 Paralympics. It is also the same place where Australia captured their first Paralympic title.


“There was great memories for us and it showed all our hard work had paid off,” Erdem said. “However, at the same time, that hard work doesn’t stop and we hope to win in London again.”


On 26 October, Australia will also compete in Chiba, Japan, looking to defend their crown at the 2015 International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) Asia-Oceania Championships, which runs until 1 November.


Host nation and No. 4 ranked Japan is expected to challenge Australia for the regional title.


“They’ve (Japan) have been a threat for many years and have come a long way,” Erdem said. “They’re a really strong team and have some new members that will be gaining experience. … We’re expecting they will come out hard against us, but we’ll be doing the same against them.”


Erdem has been a vital part of the starting lineup in recent years and a big reason behind Australia’s rise to the top of the rankings. The 0.5 classified player believes their heavy training schedule has been the reason behind team Australia’s success.


“We’ve got two hubs, one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane, and we’ve been training in teams three days a week,” Erdem said. “We had a camp [in September] where everyone flew into Melbourne which went really well. … We’ve done all our preparation and we’re very excited about making a good contest in London and Japan as well.”


While Australia will keep an eye on regional rival Japan, they are also watching Canada, who cemented their place at No. 2 following their gold medal from the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.


“They’ve [Canada] also been strong for a very long time and we’ve played them quite a few times and always matched up well against them. And even though USA lost the final doesn’t mean they are a weaker team,” he said.


The Australian veteran has been to four Paralympics, starting at Sydney 2000 before appearing at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012. He looks forward to another one at Rio 2016.


“It would mean everything to me to play in my fifth Paralympics and hopefully continue the success of this great team,” Erdem said.