Australia crowned Champions of the World for the first time
By Beau Greenway
Australia has finally won the major title that has eluded them in the sport of wheelchair rugby following a fantastic 67-56 win over Canada in the IWRF World Championship final in Odense, Denmark.
It was very tight early as Canada got off to a great start, leading 5-3 in the opening stages of the first quarter, the only issue was that three timeouts had to be used along the way.
15-15 all was the score after the first quarter and the game looked set to be an absolute thriller.
The Australian team looked nervous but started to grow in confidence during the second quarter, which saw them push out to a 32-27 lead at the main break.
Canada had burned through all their timeouts in the first half which allowed Australia to capitalize on every mistake and extend the margin to eight goals at the final change.
The Steelers held their nerve in the final quarter and capped off a fantastic week with the ultimate glory.
Ryley Batt played every minute of the gold medal match, and can add another major trophy to his huge list of achievements in the sport.
"That’s the last title ticked off the list, we have a Paralympic gold, Oceanic gold and now a World Championship gold and we are so proud of that," said Batt.
"We knew they would come out strong, Canada can step up for any game and we saw that yesterday against the Americans when they played the best game I had ever seen them play."
"After the first quarter we were even, but we knew deep down that we were fitter than them which definitely paid off in the end."
"The Australian Paralympic Committee, all the staff, the strength and conditioning, the coaches, and players just stepped up this whole tournament, and we got the gold medal we were after."
Zak Madell played a brilliant game once again for Canada but it wasn’t enough to stop the relentless Australian effort.
"They went out and pushed the whole game, made some strong defensive plays using their speed and agility and they managed to come out on top," said Madell.
"Over the course of the game they slowly started pulling away, and towards the end they just extended that gap."
"We are definitely happy, we have moved up in the international rankings from third to second now, nobody really likes to lose but are happy with where we are."
Earlier in the day the USA bounced back from their difficult semifinal loss to secure the bronze medal over Japan 62-56.
USA captain Andy Cohn admitted the team was still a work in progress, but were glad they could at least come away with a medal.
"We have got a lot to learn, there was a lot of really good teams here and we have a lot we can take away from this."
"I was really proud of the guys showing a lot of heart and a lot of effort in coming back and getting a medal out of this."
This event couldn’t be made possible without the hard work of a lot of people behind the scenes, which was recognised by IWRF President John Bishop.
" I think the event was a huge success, they had great crowds, the teams had everything they needed as far as support went, and it was a very relaxed atmosphere for most of the athletes, which always leads to a better performance on the court.
"The media promotion of the event was amazing through Facebook and Twitter, the webcast itself was incredible, and obviously the fans here in Denmark appreciate the sport because they certainly came out and supported their team as well as several other teams.
"The organizing committee was spot on, anytime there was a glitch, they got to it right away and seemed to clear up any issues. With an event this size there is always something that pops up but the confidence of this crew was incredible in rectifying anything almost instantly."
"Unfortunately I am leaving tomorrow but I would definitely come back, and I think all the countries that competed here would too."
The final event standings were as follows:
5. Great Britain
8. New Zealand
In a World Championship first, Great Britain’s Ajaz Bhuta won the fans MVP award for the most popular player of the week.
Here is a list of 2014 IWRF World Championship All Tournament Team
0.5: Nazim Erdem (Australia)
1.0: Trevor Hirschfield (Canada)
1.5: Thomas Schuwje (Germany)
2.0: Joe Delagrave (USA)
2.5: Ian Chan (Canada)
3.0: Chuck Aoki (USA)
3.5: Zak Madell (Canada)
MVP: Zak Madell (Canada)
Australia’s Ryley Batt was somewhat of a surprise omission from the overall awards, but you can’t take anything away from Madell, he had a brilliant tournament and will be a key factor for the future Canadian wheelchair rugby.
All the teams will take a well-earned break for a few weeks before any getting back on the court for future tournaments.
full results for all games can be found at http://www.iwrf.com/?page=iwrf_news&id=327.