Three of the world’s top 10 Wheelchair Rugby teams, as well as hosts South Korea, will go head-to-head this weekend in the IWRF Asia Oceania Regional Championships in Seoul (5-8 November), the final qualification event for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Ranked second in the world after silver medal finishes in the 2008 Paralympic Games and last year’s World Championships, Australia will start the competition as favourites and will be keen to qualify for London so they can try topple their nemesis USA.
They will face stiff competition though against world number three side Japan, world number nine’s and Tasman rival New Zealand, and hosts Korea, who are ranked 18th in the world.
With a line up including the likes of Brisbane-based co-captains Cameron Carr and Ryan Scott, Port Macquarie’s Ryley Batt, Melbourne veteran Nazim Erdem and a raft of new comers, Australian Wheelchair Rugby Head Coach Brad Dubberley says his team is the strongest Australia has ever assembled.
“This is the most important tournament for us to get to London and we won’t get any second chances,” Dubberley said.
“We’ve worked hard over the last six months preparing for this. We’ve tried to simulate the conditions we’re likely to experience in Korea, we’ve played in tournaments where every single one of our guys has had significant court time and we are more prepared than we ever have been.
“This is the strongest wheelchair rugby team this country has ever seen. The competition will be tough but we definitely have what it takes to succeed.”
Eight teams will contest the medals in Wheelchair Rugby at the London 2012 Paralympic Games which get underway on 29 August. The teams who have qualified so far include USA, Canada Sweden, Belgium and Great Britain. The top team competing in Seoul will earn one of the three remaining positions. The remaining two wild card positions will be assigned based on world rankings following the tournament.