Despite still being a relative newcomer to the sport, New Zealand’s Kauri Murray has already made his senior international debut.
The 4.0 classified player, was introduced to wheelchair basketball through his mentor in 2014. He said, “I was doing adaptive rowing back then, but as soon as I went to my first wheelchair basketball training session with the team I fell in love with the sport instantly and eventually dropped rowing.”
It must have been a steep learning curve from starting the sport three years ago to representing his country, but Kauri wouldn’t change it. “It meant a lot to me being the youngest player in this squad selected to play for New Zealand. Putting that black singlet on and representing my family, people and my country was an honour and something I will cherish forever.”
After a break from the Asia Oceania Championships in 2015, the Roller Blacks returned to the competition with high expectations.
The Auckland Wheelbreakers player explained, “We’ve been preparing for this tournament since around the start of the year, having three-day camps at the start of each month. The whole team had to travel to Auckland from other parts of the country, so every time we had a training camp we would use it wisely.
“We have a diverse mix of players who have been in the game for a while with a lot of experience who have been involved in previous AOZ tournaments, and others like myself and a few from the junior programme who are just getting started.
“Expectations were very high from all of us as a team, especially for us up and coming players. Running through our offensive and defensive systems were a must and as a team we were very pleased with our performances. There is still lots of work to be done but lots of learning to be taken back home!
“Back in New Zealand, I personally believe wheelchair basketball is developing and is getting popular in the country. A lot of awareness about the sport has been raised and has attracted young players like me into the game.
“With regards to our international skill level, we are behind others by a few years or more so there’s a lot of work to be done, but by participating in more international tournaments like the AOZ Championships can help us develop and only benefit our game.”
The Roller Blacks improved throughout the tournament and finished on a high with a win over the United Arab Emirates to claim the eleventh spot. Kauri reflected on his first major tournament, “I really enjoyed it. I couldn’t believe how much the game has changed and how well it was played. I couldn’t believe that I was competing with the best in the AOZ. There is a lot of skill and talent in these players that I’m inspired by. The experience was just on a whole nother level for me. I’m truly humbled.”
Looking forward, Kauri is currently studying at the University of Auckland, but would love to be able to combine this with his wheelchair basketball, saying “Personally I would really love to experience playing the sport overseas whilst I’m doing my Bachelors degree in Science.”