The West

Wheelcats, Stars headline national teams
Wheelcats, Stars headline national teams

Four Perth Wheelcats stars have been selected in the Australian Rollers men’s wheelchair basketball team for the Asia Oceania Zone Championship in South Korea next month.

The tournament doubles as the qualifying event for the 2012 London Paralympics.

The Rollers will be defending the Asia Oceania Zone Championship they won on home soil in 2009, as will the Australian Gliders women’s team.

Wheelcats players Justin Eveson, Shaun Norris, Michael Hartnett and Brad Ness will link up with four teammates from the 2008 Paralympic gold medal-winning team in this year’s squad.

Rollers coach Ben Ettridge said his team was well-prepared for the challenges ahead following an extensive selection process over the past 18 months.

“Given we’ve had a selection camp with 16 guys together, three or four weeks before we go, we’re hoping that we’re pretty much on song by the second or third day,” said Ettridge, who also led the Wanneroo Wolves to a drought-breaking title in the State Basketball League this season.

“We’re looking at a playing environment that is not like home. Korea is a very different place to play and live and eat and get around, so it will test the guys with the different challenges they’ll get thrown on a daily basis.

“It’s very important for where we want to be heading because, if you get to London, you’re relying on your 12 teammates and staff members to get you through some tough spots.”

Three members of the Western Stars will join a Gliders team led by former Australian Opals women’s basketball coach Jan Stirling.

Sarah Vinci, Clare Burzynski and Amber Merritt are part of what Stirling described as a well-balanced squad that will have to be at it’s best to retain the Asian title and qualify for London after finishing with bronze at Beijing in 2008.

“We know that China is a country on the move in terms of the wheelchair game and we always have wonderful battles with Japan, so it won’t be an easy task but we’re certainly looking forward to it,” Stirling said.

“No one knows much about Korea at all and I think that’s always fraught with danger when you’re playing against a host nation in any event. They’ve kind of been doing their preparation in house if you like so we have to be prepared to expect the unexpected with Korea.”

The Asia Oceania Zone Championship will be held in Goyang, South Korea from 4-11 November, with two London Paralympics spots up for grabs in both the men’s and women’s competitions.

The West Australian

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