Rollers and Gliders headed to Japan for AOZ qualifiers

Share this article

The Australian men’s team, the Rollers and the women’s team, the Gliders will begin the AOZ tournament on October 10 with the winners advancing to Rio for the 2016 Paralympics.

Three spots are available in the men’s side of the competition with twelve teams competing.

Australia will be confident of their chances, coming off back-to-back World Championships while Tige Simmons and Brett Stibners were a part of the side who won gold at Beijing in 2008.

Since that time, coach Ben Ettridge has been developing a long-term plan with the Rollers that will culminate, hopefully, at Rio next year.

“The past three years have been about development of individuals and the depth of the Rollers program. Now its business time,” he said.

In a three-game warm-up series against Brazil over the weekend, Australia fought out a close and physical contest, losing 2-1.

Shaking off some rust after not playing together since a tour of the USA earlier in the year, the Rollers fought back from an early deficit to close within a point in the final three minutes of Game 1 before losing 47-52.

They bounced back to take Game 2, 59-50, powering away in overtime after again trailing in the opening term.

Brazil were keen to put Australia away early in the deciding match, taking a five-point advantage into quarter-time but with the intensity reaching another level, the Rollers clawed their way in front at the main break. The home side were able to get on top in the second half though, earning a hard-fought 64-59 victory.

Stibners was superb throughout the warm-up games, averaging 12.3 points, Bill Latham led the charge in Game 2 with 23 points and Brad Ness added 11 in Game 3.

The Rollers will face Taipei in their opening game on October 10, before facing Iran, Saudi Arabia, Philippines and Malaysia in the group stage.

Despite just three teams participating in the women’s competition with only one spot available for Rio, Gliders coach Tom Kyle is not feeling the pressure.

“We’ve talked about the pressure a lot, we thought we were best to approach it head on and it will be something that drives us even harder,” he said.

After setting themselves up well for this tournament with a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, the Gliders stumbled slightly with a sixth-placed finish at last year’s IWBF World Championships.

“We had a good result in London but a not so good result in the World Champs as we started to re-build the team,” said Kyle.

“But I’m happy now that we have a mix of experience and youth. That will hopefully see us through Rio and I’m expecting the fruits of our labour to really come to fruition in Tokyo 2020.”

The Gliders will play Japan in the opening game of the AOZ qualifiers for the women before facing China with a day’s break in between. Those pool games will then be repeated with the finals to begin on October 16.

The 2015 Gliders for the AOZ qualifiers: Cobi Crispin (VIS), Shelley Cronau (QAS), Shelley Chaplin (VIS), Leanne Del Toso (VIS), Kylie Gauci (NSWIS), Georgia Inglis (WAIS), Bridie Kean (QAS), Amber Merritt (WAIS), Georgia Munro-Cook (NSWIS), Clare Nott (WAIS), Ella Sabljak (QAS), Sarah Vinci (WAIS).

The 2015 Rollers for the AOZ qualifiers: Jannik Blair (VIS), Adam Deans (WAIS), Tristan Knowles (VIS), Bill Latham (QAS), Matt McShane (QAS), Brad Ness (WAIS), Shaun Norris (WAIS), Tom O’Neill-Thorne (NTIS), Shawn Russell (NSWIS), Tige Simmons (QAS), Brett Stibners (NSWIS), Sam White (SASI).