Shae Graham Wheelchair Rugby

Shae Graham will become the first female to represent Australia in wheelchair rugby at the Paralympics (credit Paralympics.org)

Australia’s wheelchair rugby side The Steelers have announced a 12 strong squad for the Tokyo Paralympics. The team is looking to make this Australia’s third gold in a row after winning in London and Rio.

Wheelchair rugby is returning to the Paralympics in 2020 and is one of the most exciting events to watch. Teams are decided based on a points system with different point totals given to players depending on their functional ability. These point totals range from 0.5 to 3.5 points. The four players on the court cannot exceed a total of eight points at any time.

The Australian side will see some new faces with Mick Ozanne, Jake Howe, Richard Voris and Shae Graham to join the players who won gold in 2016.

The four new players will join the 2016 winners. Captain Ryley Batt along with Chris Bond, Andrew Edmondson, Ben Fawcett, Andrew Harrison, Jason Lees, Josh Hose and Jayden Warn.

Shae Graham will become the first woman to represent The Steelers at the Paralympic level. Shae was a backseat passenger in a car accident at the age of 18 when she suffered a severe injury, including a fractured spine and pelvis and a brain injury. It took her a decade from that point to begin playing wheelchair sport. She then set herself the goal of becoming a Paralympian. Graham will achieve this lofty goal for The Steelers at Tokyo 2020.

The Steelers will go into Tokyo 2020 as favourites, which head coach Brad Dubberley is acutely aware of. He said of the competition at Tokyo 2020.

“No one outside of our team at these Games has won a Paralympic gold medal.

“We’ve won the last two, and no player will be there from the US Team from Beijing 2008 when they won. Big-game experience is something we’ve got that no other team really has.”

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It has been a challenging run for the Steelers going into the Tokyo 2020 games. Covid has affected many sports but in particular para-sports which don’t see the funding of many other sports.

“Our training camp in Tokyo will be the first time we’ve had our whole squad together since March last year,” Dubberley said.

“We’ll have our four training sessions together in Tokyo and a practice game against Canada, and that’ll be about it. So, what we’ll be drawing on for this campaign is experience and, particularly, that big-game experience.” Dubberley added.

Wheelchair rugby is one of the biggest drawcard sports for the Paralympics, especially for Australian audiences. There will be a lot of pressure on this Australian team to bring home gold, but this is something Dubberley believes the side can live up to.

“We also know we’ve got an aura around our team. When we go to tournaments with people like Ryley on our side, it has our opponents freaking out a bit. We’re still going to be one of the teams to beat, regardless of how difficult our run-in has been.”

With wheelchair rugby being such an important sport for Australian Paralympics. The Paralympic Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson has thrown her support behind The Steelers.

“Australia’s wheelchair rugby high-performance program, managed by Paralympics Australia, is now stronger than ever.

“With firm support from the Australian Institute of Sport, we’ve been able to invest in ways to build on our Team’s success,” Anderson said of the team.

Anderson wished The Steelers all the best with their upcoming campaign.

“So, I want to say congratulations and good luck to our Steelers representatives for Tokyo 2020, but also a big thank you to all those who have been helping to consolidate the Team’s success and building a strong foundation for the future of our wheelchair rugby program.”

The wheelchair rugby events at the Paralympics will run from August 25th through to August 29th.

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