In Korea, 7 days ago, the NZ Wheel Blacks team won Bronze, finishing 3rd at the IWRF Asia Oceania Wheelchair Rugby Championship. This placing earned NZ a qualification spot at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, the Wheel Blacks have been working together toward this goal for many years.
Greg Mitchell, Coach of the Wheel Blacks has been involved since 2007, beginning in a mechanic role and development team Coach, Mitchell took on a higher performance role of Coaching the Wheel Blacks a couple of years after, and has continued involvement in a Coaching capacity. It has been years of work and commitment from Mitchell but also from the team. Eight of the nine players at the 2019 Asia Oceania Championship have spent at least four years training and playing together, with some individuals being on the team for up to nine years, all working toward the goal of competing at the Paralympics. This is not about who has been there the longest but does show the lengthy commitment our players and volunteers have with wheelchair rugby. Our newer Wheel Blacks players are also showing the solid commitment of their senior mentors, giving NZWR a long term vision of success on the world stage.
Over the 2019 season the Coaching Team had players focussing on offence, "The team has got to be able score goals to be able to win games" Mitchell states. There has been a big focus on player fitness to ensure play did not fade toward the end of the game, good fitness also helping minimise turnovers.
The Bronze game saw the Korean team bring a different playing game than the previous game between Korea & Wheel Blacks with new line ups and stepping up their intensity of play.
In October, the Wheel Blacks travel to Tokyo for the World Wheelchair Rugby Championship where the eight top teams in the World come together to compete. This competition will offer the Wheel Blacks a snapshot of what they will be facing at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. NZ often get to battle against the top teams with Japan and Australia being within our international zone. Playing against other top teams from around the World will offer great insight toward the Wheel Blacks last chapter of work for Paralympic level competition.
"Every team is tough, we just try to keep in there, being present and taking hold of the momentum when it is flowing - trust the plan, trust the process" says Mitchell.
Donate here to support the Wheel Blacks and NZ Wheelchair Rugby on their journey to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Or support via our community partner, by clicking on Ohau Wines, use code ‘WheelchairRugby’ to receive a discount for yourself, and for a portion of the sale to be donated to NZ Wheelchair Rugby.