(narrator) The Wheel Blacks.Triumphant gold medal winners
in wheelchair rugby
at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens.We’re on the top of the world.
And we’re physically we were awesome. There’s a lot of respect for the jersey
and what being a Wheel Black means.(narrator) But since their winWheel Black’s performance
has underwhelmed
and so has their world ranking.We’re pretty much written off. You know, we’re 9th in the world.(narrator) Four of the original gold
medal squad still play.
Jai, Dan, Curtis and Sholto
are the old guard
and want to retire with a win.But the once mighty Wheel Blackshaven’t even qualified for
the 2012 Paralympics.
I just want to go out, you know,
round off my career how it should be — on top. Two weeks to go and we’re just trying
to qualify for the Paralympics. I mean, that was unheard of
even a couple years ago. You know, we were on top of the world. We’ve got to realize that it’s going to
be pretty intense over there.(narrator) They must achieve
first or second place
at the upcoming Oceanic Regional Champs
if they are to qualify.
In the past, you know, we won
a lot of games leading into it and you know, played
a lot of tournaments so you know, we just had
faith that we’d do well. But this time, you know,
it’s an unknown. You know, we haven’t played
a lot of these teams for a long time.(man) Everyone on their chairs.(narrator) This is their final meet before
they hit the Oceanic games.
A lack of funding has meant the team
has only had two training’s to do that.
They’re trying to stay positive about
the serious lack of preparation.
This is a fantastic bunch of guys. I’m really really enjoying it on the team. I’m training better than I ever have. I feel as fit as I ever have. And I’ve got as much passion for
the game as I ever have.(narrator) Six of the team’s squad
members are newbies.
Gavin’s only been a quadriplegic
since his accident six years ago.
(narrator) Barney [inaudible],
eager and with lots of energy.
These new guys have no experience
of the enormous pressure
they’ll face in Korea.They haven’t got a lot
of international experience. And so when the pressure
comes on time will tell whether they can live up and, you know, keep the accuracy and composure
you need in the big games. Because it could be one lost
in one turn over, two turn overs. All of these guys have been
playing for a lot of years. They’re like, I might have the speed
but they’ve got the knowledge. That’s why I respect them. (whistle)(narrator) Wheelchair rugby
is the only team sport
available to guys with quadriplegia.For Gavin, who spent
his teenage years surfing,
it’s a buzz to be back playing sport.One of my goals when
I was first in the hospital five-and-a-half years ago was
I wanted to get to the London Olympics. And it’s becoming a reality. But we’ve just got to get over
this first hurdle to qualify and yeah. (carer) Good morning, Gav.
How are you today?(narrator) Gav has the highest level
of spinal injury
of any guy on the squad.He has a real low level of functionand is reliant on a carer.Before you do that,
let’s empty this out. [inaudible] Since I’ve been in the chair I’ve always
tried to be as independent as possible and tried to do everything that I can do. So it’s definitely got easier over time. And training and playing wheelchair rugby
and working on my physical strengths definitely helped out
with my independence. So — These are easier to put on. – (Gavin) Easier than [inaudible]
– (carer) Yeah. Quite easier(narrator) Many of the guys credit the
game with changing their world.
Jai sees a younger
version of himself in Gav.
And both guys have a similar
level of hand function.
Jai has played wheelchair
rugby for ten years.
This season is his last.You know this is funny… You do feel like you’re
not even a man anymore. Emily, time for your bottle. I guess being in that rugby chair
and getting out on the court and actually smashing
someone, you know, getting aggression out and
testosterone, all those sort of things, you know, it just gives you confidence you go, yeah, you know, actually… I’m still a man. (baby crying) Hang on. I don’t think I would have had
the confidence to, you know, meet my wife
or, you know… I think I would have been
a lot more shy I think. You know, I think I would have
been a lot more in my shell. I’m like always out of town. And you know, even my wife says, you know, sometimes she feels
like a solo mom. You know, because always toddling on. And so, any time we achieve anything,
you know, that little piece of gold just means, you know, this is the symbol
of the time that I’ve had to sacrifice.(narrator) Cameron Leslie has already won
a gold medal in swimming.
This sport gives him mateship.My brothers play rugby.
My sister played net ball. And just seeing the commodore
that they have within the team environment that’s something I never experienced
until I started playing wheelchair rugby. I suppose I wanted that commodore. Now that I am having it
with wheelchair rugby I’m loving it and I’m living
what my brothers did throughout my high school years. (whistle) I think most of the guys I know who live, you know, who use wheelchairs do play rugby or play some other sport or are highly motivated people. (whistle) And then there’s other guys
that have just sort of been caught in those low
expectation sort of lifestyles where people around them
don’t expect much and they sort of fall into that trap of not expecting much from themselves. And I just see them and think,
‘Man, you can do so much more.’(narrator) After his accident, Chris was
determined to go back to farming.
He gave that his best shot.But when he had to give the farming awayhe applied his determination
to the training as a Wheel Black.
I was probably at my physical
peak when I broke my neck, but I always stayed fit because
of the work you did on the land like I never did weights like this. I have to start going to the gym
and do weights and push [my rugby chair] and do actual fitness and
strength based activity.(narrator) There’s strict classification
system for all players in the sport.
Players must have loss of function in
all four limbs to play wheelchair rugby.
But function varies massivelyso there’s a point scale.Each is ranked for physical capability
from .5 to 3.5.
To find their number the players
are put through
a series of classification tests
before each tournament.
Pretty lengthy process of
touching, feeling your muscles stretching out, things like that. Figure out what sort of
function you’ve got. And then from that they give you
a grading between a .5 and a 3.5. And I’m a 1.5.(narrator) Gav has
the lowest ranking of .5
because he has very little hand functionand arm strength.Most of the team are quadriplegicso they have no ability to use
muscles from the chest down.
Cameron has a rating of 2.5 because
he’s able to use the muscles in his trunk.
This gives him balance and
he’s able to [tuck in] quickly.
His strength allows him
to transfer his weight
for maximum impact and big hits.On court the sum of their rankings
must add to a maximum of eight.
Only four players of each team
are on the court at one time.
Coaches strategically field
combinations of players
making the most of everyone’s strengths.Jai is one of the most experienced
one pointers in the world.
But he’s making this
Paralympics his last event.
It was pretty tough this last two years. ‘Cause you know, my step-dad died. You know, that was really tough. And you know, I’ve never really
had a chance to grieve. Never really had time to spend with him,
you know, before he died. And you know, there’s always other
situations that you miss out on like friends. I mean, always getting kicks
from your friends, e-mails. ‘Oh, what are you doing on the weekend?’ You know, or ‘Where are you?’ [inaudible discussion](narrator) This tournament in Seoul is
coming out of their own pockets.
Eight years ago the Wheel Blacks
were funded to travel the world.
Hey, how are you?(narrator) Dan’s had
a decade in the sport.
Without a doubt, the last ten years
have been phenomenal, you know. It’s been action packed. Hey. How are you? But the new guys coming up
are really exciting me. And I want to keep
playing with these boys. I want to be there with them
when we go to London. I started playing in 1993. I’ve been to four Paralympics now. And I’ve never had so much desire to
go to a Paralympics as I do now. We’re 12 hours away from a pretty
important tournament for the Wheel Blacks. It’s make or break.(narrator) The tournament is in Incheon,
two hour bus ride from Seoul.
Ideally the Wheel Blacks would have
a week to prepare for the tournament.
Instead, they’ve got 48 hours
before the first game.
I’m relishing the opportunity
to go out there and show this part of the world at least
what Wheel Blacks can do again. Well, this is our opportunity to
return to the top four in the world. I think if we now if we can just really
just doing small things really well, most of it is I think we go 100 miles
an hour trying to do everything. I think we just do those small things
and concentrate on that. Accuracy. Accuracy. It is important to honor guys. And I’m talking about Shiloh and Curt. So I’d like to give them a little honor. And that is in terms of
handing out [for so much]. Yeah, we’ve got [inaudible] be in it. This is a great bunch of guys. And this is the best team
that I’ve been involved in athlete-wise. And there’s a great vibe
in the team at the moment. And I think we’re gonna do it. I’m feeling really good about it. I can see myself in
a lot of you young guys. You know, where I was
exactly where you’re at full of banes and, you know,
just soaking everything in and this tournament for me
is really important. You know, I don’t
want to finish it here. And I really would like to go to London. And I can’t think of a better team
to go on that journey with. So there. Go hard. No regrets. Finish this tournament with no regrets. Well be ready. Strong. Play well. I’m embracing
the mentoring kind of a roll. It’s really good. I really like it. I don’t consider myself
to be a coach or anything. I wouldn’t like to
take on that job at all. But I’m really enjoying just
being there for the guys, you know, answering their questions and just setting them straight. It’s really cool. Yeah.
I love it.(narrator) Barney’s had to get time off
school to play this tournament.
Small, big, small, big. How does it feel like
to get in that jersey? Felt really good. I never thought I’d make the
Wheel Blacks at a teenager’s age. I’d expect to make
a Wheel Black at 22, 23. Felt good. It felt like getting blessings
from the Queen herself. That’s how stoked I am. You know, me. It feels good to roll
with the senior members. To see how they do it. And I could bring like
spice it up a little bit. But yeah.(narrator) The team has their first match
against Japan tomorrow.
Today they have classification.It’s a stressful process.It will be my third
international classification. So hopefully get this one done and
that will be it for my rugby career. Could you come forward a bit? And use your hips… I haven’t got my toe strap on.
Do you want me to put this on? Yeah. But first take you
take off your shirt. Okay. [inaudible] Can I have the bottle? Oh, yeah. Do you want me to pull it all the way? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, you know what, I don’t care. Leave it on? Yeah. And do you want to — You’ve got this.
You’ll be more stable. [inaudible] A 1.5 player like Chris can get fairly
good speed on court with his pushing. And up to your 3.5 players, they’re the ones
that then will have the most muscles working, most ability on court, so very quick in their chair. The number one ball carrier in the team.(narrator) The classification of Barney
and Cameron are key.
They’re the strongest players
on the Wheel Blacks.
If they’re classified too highit will upset their
planed player combinations.
The classifiers are in dispute.Some reckon Barney is a four,higher than the sport’s rules allow,which would put him completely
out of the tournament.
Assignment currently sits… Yeah. …between 3.5 and a 4. But more towards 3.5. So. Still good. Sweet. Okay?(narrator) Others stress
that he has no fingers
on one hand and should be a lower rating.Cameron was born with malformed limbs.He doesn’t have fingers
to push his wheelchair
but he does have incredible strength.There’s heated discussion about
rising his rank from 2.5 to a 3.
Decision’s made.He’s 2.5.Barney’s had an anxious wait.They’re going to see you
in the games tomorrow.He’s staying in the game at 3.5.It’s time to psyche themselves
for top level performance.
A lot of people now have
seen wheelchair rugby. They know how gladiatorial that it is and how rough and tough and
[inaudible] it can be.(narrator) Curtis is one of the
hottest players in the world.
No one wants him injured.Yeah, sure. Had took
a tumble in the warm up. Landed on the concrete. It’s a bit sore. (whistle)(narrator) It’s a game of four
eight minute quarters
played on regular basketball court.The ball must be bounced or
passed within ten seconds.
A goal’s scored when you
push across the line.
Barney’s talentedbut at time’s he’s a little too eager.He’s hogging the balland frustrating his teammates.(whistle) Barney reverted back to
17-year-old instincts. And kind of shows that he’s
not quite ready for the big shot. (whistle) Once he gets that kind
of play out of his play he’ll be phenomenal.(narrator) Curtis is risking his shoulder
injury for the game.
They’re two points down.It’s not clicking.
We’re not quite going. So that’s why I’m a little apprehensive. Then having said that, I think
the Wheel Blacks are notorious for that. We don’t start tournaments well. And we get better as we go on. Just a few too many turnovers
from our point of view that cost us. More to work on. So…(narrator) They knew they were unprepared
and it’s showing.
With one second left they have
a last desperate throw
to try and tie the game.(whistle) To have these six new guys
in with us four old guys you know,we’ve got to
develop trust in them. You know, that only
comes with experience. And you know, these guys have to
get that experience real fast ’cause you know, this tournament
we’re playing right now. You know, this is make or break. And you know, it’s really steep. Steep learning curve. They’ve got an even bigger game ahead
against the sharks of the sport — Australia. A team with huge financial backing. (whistle) (whistle)(narrator) It’s grudge time.Barney’s pitched against
Australia’s top man, Ryley Batt.
Everyone’s watching to see
how the new kid performs.
(whistle) [inaudible] Once you get free, bust down, dude. (whistle) (whistle)Australia takes the game by five points.The Kiwi’s are gutted.It was the Aussies
that kicked the Wheel Blacks out of the Beijing Paralympics. That was just heartbreaking, you know. We put everything in
to our heart and soul and after that second
game against Aussie I just went in the changing room
and just cried like a baby. I was just devastated. At time’s it’s just too much, you know. And I’ve been through those stages
where I’ve had just too much and had to get out of it. I’m thinking maybe we’ll chill here. [inaudible] You say you feel nervous. You just worried about like
making sure you do your job? Yeah. Making sure I do the right job. If I’ll do it well. Yeah? I used to get nervous all the time. It’s about developing
trust in your teammates. Knowing that they can do the job. I mean, dude, I’ve been
watching you develop, man. You’re getting there. And like I think, you know, the biggest thing for us
as low point as it is, we got to lead the talk. Yeah. I reckon, our low point is,
we make lineups quick. If we’re talking we…
[inaudible]. You guys are the future. Like you know, us old guys,
man, we’re sort of ticking along. But we love watching you guys come along and developing and stuff. You know, you guys will be carrying team through
for the next ten years. And it’s a huge commitment. And I guess part of the emotion is coming from first in the world, dude, to here. You know, sort of goes high, dude. It really hurts day and night. We’re going out on that. I don’t want to go out [inaudible]. I’ve learned a lot from John. He’s achieved a lot. He’s an incredible person. He’s given me so much advice since
I’ve been playing wheelchair rugby and been in a chair.(narrator) Round two.Wheel Blacks are playing Japan.Gav’s ready to prove himself.There’s no room for error.They must win to stay in the competition.Pow, pow, pow, pow.(narrator) The combination of Dan
and Cameron is powerful.
Gavin’s playing with more confidence.(whistle)It’s a five point victory
to the Wheel Blacks.
[Inaudible] gave me heaps of advice. Went over some footage
from the first game and just a couple of
chair positioning things and yeah, as you can see,
it showed out on the court, I think. I think I played a lot better. Definitely wasn’t as
nervous this time as well. So a lot more confident.(narrator) Day three they deliver a
second victory: Korea.
31 to 17, that’s a thrashing.This game coming up on Tuesday,
the semi-final that we’ve go to win to get to London, I just want to really want to get that because I want to keep this dream alive and I want to keep playing under Pete and I want to keep
playing with these boys. I think for us young guys on the team it’s our time to step up
and go from being the young guys to being a member of the squad. I’m pulling the same weight as
everyone else is expected to.(narrator) The next game against
Japan is the critical one.
It will determine if either
Japan or New Zealand
qualifies for London.There’s a hint of dirty tactics
behind the scenes.
I forgot my drink bottle
and I go back into the room there and I saw the Japanese
guys going for our gear and measuring stuff up. You know, that’s how much they want it. We’ve got to make sure all
our equipment is in order, Make sure there are no technicalities
can go wrong. You know, [inaudible] the chance.(narrator) Chris is doing
a little spying of his own.
Pretty impressive warm-ups
and training sessions they have. But you know, they’ve been
around the world playing rugby for the last three months. Seeing them out there and all
[inaudible] up and dressed up, I just want to smash them more. I just want to beat them
and send them home. Send them packing. Yeah.(narrator) There’s a crisis.As they prepare to take the court
Cameron’s classification has changed.
Increasing him from 2.5 to 3,restricting the combinations
they can play.
The pressure’s on everyone.For years Dan and Chris
have been mad for us. You know, they’re the
go to guys to get the ball you know, take on the number one
from the other team and you know,
that’s going to be Barney’s role. Barney hasn’t performed
well this tournament but this is the chance
to prove to the others he does have the maturity
to play for his country. You know, he’s real young. But every now and then he pulls something out of the hat. You say, man, that
guy’s going to be special. (cheering)(narrator) Halftime and the guys
are down five points.
It’s rough.(cheering)(narrator) Barney’s back on court finally.He drives the goal, scoring,bringing the team back
to within one point of victory
with seven minutes to go.(whistle) Keep your eyes on the prize, boys. Three minutes, thirty. Eyes on the prize.
(whistle) One, two three. (cheering)(narrator) Coach Peter Martin
alternates between
the old guys and the new guys,keeping the lineup fresh.New Zealand is two points behind
and Japan has a [inaudible].
This is their chance.The score see-saws as the teams battle
for that vital place
at the London Paralympics.Japan has the lead.It’s tight and only one
point between them.
(whistle)Japan seals the game with a final goal.We came and we tried, man. Everybody just put
everything into that one. True fighting spirit, eh?(narrator) The dream of London is gone.All they can do now is
rebuild for the future
and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.We’ve got a real talent in our team and if the young guys
commit to the sport, if they can get enough money to travel, play for teams overseas and you know, ’cause that’s
where the competition is and that’s where they’re
gonna get better. They’re gonna be amazing. They’re world class players, you know. They’ve got the potential to be.
That’s for sure. Yeah.

Wheelchair Rugby: The Wheel Blacks
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2 thoughts on “Wheelchair Rugby: The Wheel Blacks

  • June 4, 2018 at 3:05 am
    Permalink

    Kiakaha guys! Awesome! Awesome! Adrenaline rush!
    Supporter 100%

    Reply
  • August 17, 2018 at 8:01 am
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    That's awesome

    Reply

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