Photo Credit: Shingo ITO – Mitsubishi World Challenge Cup

Prior to the start of the 2017 IWBF Asia Oceania Championships, IWBF junior writer Dylan Cummings spoke with Australian wheelchair basketball veteran Brad Ness to discuss the upcoming tournament.

In 1992, at the age of 18, Ness lost his leg in a boating accident and within a year, he started to play wheelchair basketball.

He was persuaded to try out the sport when he bumped into Australian Paralympic legend Bill Mather-Brown whilst he was swimming, and he remembers that first experience, “As soon as I sat in a wheelchair and had a go I loved every second of it. This is what I’d been missing since I had my accident. I knew the sport was for me. It gave me the motivation to represent my country.”

Ness, who was appointed assistant/player coach to the Australian Rollers team in February 2017, has been part of the Australian team for 20 years, but will not be competing as a player at the Asia Oceania Championships due to an injury. He will instead be there in the sole role of assistant coach alongside newly appointed head coach Craig Friday.

The 4.5 classified player, explained how things have changed under the new leadership, “The new head coach Craig Friday has turned the programme around, by installing new direction into the team. We want to make sure we are always moving forward, becoming fitter, faster, stronger.”

In preparation for the championships, the squad have been centralised at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, having four training sessions a day. They also go in with buoyed confidence after winning the recent Mitsubishi Challenge Cup beating the likes of Great Britain, Turkey and Japan. Ness said, “It was a big step forward for the team.”

There is a lot of experience in the Australian team with the likes of four-time Paralympians Shaun Norris and Tristan Knowles leading the squad. Ness believes they also have plenty of up and coming talent, such as 20-year-old Tom O’Neill-Thorne. He said, “Tom is one of the most exciting young wheelchair basketball players in the world. He is one to watch for the future of the sport.”

The Australia Rollers have never lost at the championships, so their goal is to maintain their winning streak, keeping up the prestige of their team and the tournament itself.

The Perth native said, “Competing in the Asia Oceania Championships is special to us because it’s our zone. It may not be as competitive as the European Championships, but if we don’t play to our best ability; we’ll be in for a dogfight.”

He continued, “Japan are probably our biggest threat. In the Mitsubishi Challenge Cup Japan were up by 20 points but we managed to pull it back and win by two in the final minutes. They have changed how they’re doing things. They’ve got the capacity to push hard. They can run fast line-ups which will put us under a lot of pressure.”

Ness tasted gold medal success at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, the same city where the 2017 Asia Oceania Championships are taking place…will Beijing prove to be his lucky city?

Written by Dylan Cummings – Twitter: @DylanOnWheels

Australian Rollers Team Roster

More information on the 2017 IWBF Asia Oceania Championships