Wheelchair basketballer doesn t look back

For the two decades of challenges Brad Ness has faced since having his right foot torn off in a freak ferry accident, his harshest reality came recently in a question from a Perth schoolgirl.

"The million-dollar question," Ness said of being asked by the eight-year-old if he would swap his life achievements to have his limb back intact.

"It set me back, but to be honest I don't think I would have my leg back now," he said.

"It's who I am."

Standing at the exact spot on the main Rottnest jetty where his life changed for ever in 1992, Ness calls it his "conquer moment".

He puts his prosthetic foot on the bollard where his real one was neatly sliced off by a boat rope and brandishes the World Wheelchair Basketball Championship gold medal he won in South Korea on Monday.

"This is my favourite place in the world, it holds a special place," he says, revealing a character of extraordinary strength.

Despite the incident that threatened to ruin his life when he had just turned 18, the once promising Claremont footballer believes his has truly turned out for the better.

He captained the Australian Rollers to a Paralympics gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games and also led them to two consecutive world championships.

At age 40 and the team's eldest player, he is planning a final tilt at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Then, as he runs through the rest of his basketball glories, it becomes clear how attached he is to the life he now lives.

"I wouldn't change it for the world," he said.

"It's given me a lot of pleasure and a lot of highs against literally the couple of hours of lows I had.

"It (the accident) is still in my mind on a weekly occurrence and the whole thing is still clear as a bell, but you're dead a long time and you've just got to have a crack while you can."

In something of a foreword to his life story, Ness returned to work just six months after his accident on the same ferry he was working on when he had his injury.

He says he is glad divers never found his lost foot, which he suspected went through the ferry's propeller, for fear of the difficulties he would have faced after surgery to reattach it.

Later, he would give up a "lucrative" job working on boats in the North West to chase his wheelchair basketball dreams. Now, Ness is living in Fremantle with wife Giovanna after an eight-month basketball contract in Italy turned into a 14-year stay.

"I always say I went across with a bag and a wheelchair and came back with a wife, two dogs and a house," he laughed.

He is now a driving force behind the Red Dust Heelers, a National Wheelchair Basketball League team which helps those with disabilities in indigenous communities.

The Heelers will play against Wollongong in Perth and Eaton on August 8 and 9.

The Wagin product's Paralympic gold and silver medals, which had to be replaced after they were stolen from his home in Rome, sit in the National Sports Museum at the MCG.

Ness said it was now difficult to value them and a second silver he has at home ahead of his back-to-back world championship prizes, after this week's gold medal win over the US.

In a tight final quarter, the eight-times NWBL champion scored six consecutive points to give the Rollers a lead they held until the final buzzer.

More broadly, he revels in the way he has achieved with a group of courageous teammates who have overcome vastly differing life hurdles to achieve significant common goals.

"I believe I'm part of one of the best Australian teams, able-bodied or disabled," he said.

The West Australian

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