Aussie Rollers ready to star at Rio

OUR sights are back on Rio for another dose of world-class competition – as our men’s wheelchair basketball team aim for gold medal number three.

The Rollers have been world-beaters for years – gold medal campaigns in Atlanta (1996) and Beijing (2008) have been backed up with two second place finishes in Athens (2004) and a heart-breaking loss to Canada in the final at London (2012).

While we’ve seen the rise of the Olympic Games basketball teams in recent years, the wheelchair sides have always been paragon performers.

Peak athletes ready to wheel and deal with anyone they come up against.

Athens 2004 Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball  medalist Campbell Message knows what it will take for the Rollers to get there.

While it’s not a friendly fixture for the Aussies, Message believes we’ve got what it takes on the big stage.

“It’ll be a hard draw but we would be expecting to get gold there (Rio) for sure,” Message said.

The Rollers come in on the back of a gold medal at the 2014 World Championships as well, to highlight just how much success this team can achieve

Jannik Blair – the Country star guard – has headed over to Red Dust Heelers to play at the next level and has accordingly flourished.

“Jannik Blair is one of the premier one pointers in the world at the moment, he’s playing incredibly well,” Message said. “Jannik is such a tough player and he’ll be in there screening and setting picks, he’s a treat to watch.

“He could almost be the Matthew Dellavedova of the team.”

Kilsyth’s Cobras strike-force – Tristan Knowles, Joshua Allison and Shawn Russell – provide the height and size necessary to guard the bigs across the globe and push the Rollers case for gold.

“Tristan Knowles is one of the best four-pointers going around his shooting is phenomenal,” Message said. “Coming off the national league win this year and last year the Kilsyth guys are a really integral part of the team.”

After 56 years, the Paralympic movement is stronger than ever and the participants have reached newer, bolder levels of competition.

Wheelchair basketball legend Brad Ness will be Australia’s flagbearer for the Games as well – highlighting how much our sport’s professionalism, experience and wisdom are valued by the Australian Paralympic Committee.

Australia have shared a strong rivalry with Canada over the last twelve years and the clash between the two teams is shaping up as the must-watch game of the tournament – especially with the London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medal match still fresh in Aussie minds.

We’ve done our part – as Basketball Victoria has created a wall of wheelchair wonders at the State Basketball Centre leading up to the Games!

So make sure you set the alarm clock and get the coffeepot bubbling away as the Rollers could use your support all the way across the ocean.

Scroll down for profiles on the four Victorian athletes as well as the Rollers schedule for Rio.

PARALYMPIC GAMES – VICTORIAN WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL REPRESENTATIVES

JANNIK BLAIR

30 February 1992

Club: Red Dust Heelers

Class: 1.0

Position: Guard

Number: 10

 

TRISTAN KNOWLES

25 April 1983

Club: Kilsyth Cobras

Class: 4.0

Position: Guard/Forward

Number: 9

 

JOSHUA ALLISON

Club: Kilsyth Cobras

DOB: 27 March 1986

Class: 1

Position: Guard

Number: 10

 

SHAWN RUSSELL

Club: Kilsyth Cobras

DOB: 15 Jun 1987

Class: 4.0

Position: Forward

Number: 4

 

AUSTRALIAN ROLLERS – RIO PARALYMPIC GAMES SCHEDULE (All times AEST)

Rollers v Netherlands – 6:30am, 9 September

Rollers v Turkey – 1:15am, 10 September

Rollers v Canada – 4:15am, 11 September

Rollers v Spain – 10:30pm, 11 September

Rollers v Japan – 2:30am, 13 September

Quarter Finals – Thursday 15 September (Time TBC)

Semi Finals – Friday 16 September (Time TBC)

Men’s Medal Matches/Classification Playoffs – Sunday 18 September (Time TBC)

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