With just one month to go until the 2018 wheelchair rugby World Championship gets underway in Sydney, Australia, writer Beau Greenway shares his love of the sport.
It did not take me long to get hooked on wheelchair rugby – one massive hit and I was in.
Rewind to the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, where I first watched Australia – my home team – compete from my living room, wondering exactly what was happening before my eyes.
I had never seen a sport so hard-hitting, especially in wheelchairs. All I knew was I wanted to see more.
Australia went on to claim the silver medal, falling to the USA in the final.
I sought out more information about the sport and stumbled across the documentary “Murderball”. The programme followed Canadian and US athletes trying to qualify for the 2004 Paralympics.
I am not a wheelchair user, but I began to learn more about what Para sports can do.
The fact wheelchair rugby is one of the few Para sports with full contact is a massive drawcard for athletes and spectators, like myself.
The brutal hits, the skilful passing, the desperate defence - it had it all.
I continued to follow the sport into the London 2012 Paralympics where Australia took home the gold medal for the first time.
At the time I was studying sports journalism at university, and was looking for a way I could apply my passion for writing to the sport I was so fascinated by.
When the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) launched its volunteer writers programme in 2013, I did not hesitate to apply.
I nominated wheelchair rugby as my preferred sport and was delighted when it became mine to cover.
I worked closely with the IPC team, writing stories about wheelchair rugby players and tournaments around the world.
Never could I have imagined a year later I would be watching the sport live for the first time as I flew to Denmark to cover the 2014 World Championship.
Seeing the sport in the flesh gave me a greater appreciation for it, seeing how plays unfolded and teams defended. The brute force of the hits could not be compared to what I watched on TV.
Australia created another slice of history by winning the World Championship for the first time, meaning they held both major titles
I will always cherish my time in Denmark. I made friends for life and got to interview some of the world’s best wheelchair athletes.
But nothing could match my first Paralympic Games experience at Rio 2016.
The deafening crowds, the atmosphere and the rugby were all first class.
Australia held off arch-rivals the USA by a goal in double overtime, and I got to report it. That experience went down as one of the greatest live sporting moments in my life.
The noise was defeaning and I could not help but cheer on the Australians as they retained their Paralympic title.
I have seen first-hand the development of Australian players such as Ryley Batt and Chris Bond, who have become two of the world’s most dominant players, as well as the end of the fabulous career of Naz Erdem who became the first Australian wheelchair rugby player to feature in five Paralympic Games,
One month from today, I will get to see the sport’s best in my own backyard as Sydney hosts the World Championship for the first time.
I strongly urge the Australian public to come along and support the event, and those around the world to tune into the live stream and watch.
Trust me, you will not be disappointed!
The 2018 GIO International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) Wheelchair Rugby World Championship will be held 5-10 August in Sydney, Australia.
Beau Greenway has covered wheelchair rugby for the IPC since 2013. He can be followed on Twitter @BeauGreenway.