With assistance from wheelchair rugby development sponsor ETU, Disability Sport & Recreation was able to send a team of players to represent Victoria at the annual south-east Asian wheelchair rugby competition, the Bali 4’s.
The trip was an opportunity to develop the sport of wheelchair rugby in South East Asia as well as develop the skill level of the Victorian players.
While wheelchair rugby has been played in south-east Asia for a few years, there isn’t a lot of opportunity for development at an individual or team level.
So in addition to the Victorian players attending, Naz Erdem was invited by the Bali Sports Foundation to do some coaching with up and coming nations taking up the sport of wheelchair rugby.
“I flew in a few days before my team mates, so I could spend time coaching the other teams,’ says Naz.
“Some players had a good understanding of the game, but others had only been playing for a few months.
“I went through the basics teaching them wheelchair skills, ball skills, offensive and defensive tactics.
“There was a language barrier with most of the players, which made it frustrating, humorous, and repetitive in trying to get a message across.
“It was great practice for me in trying to communicate in different ways.
“Our team was by far the strongest in the competition, but we made an effort to let the other teams develop and well as some of our newer players.
“Each player was given the opportunity of being the main ball handler to develop their skills.”
The competition included teams from Indonesia, Malaysia and a combined Timor Leste/Singapore team with a friendly hand from one American.
On the day of the competition, the honour of officially opening the games went to Helena Studdert, the Australian Consul-General to Bali.
For Harlequins player, Will Taylor, this was his first chance to play an international wheelchair rugby competition.
“It was great to get out of the cold and head to Bali with some good friends that I had made while playing wheelchair rugby in Victoria,” says Will.
“It was even better that some were my team mates from the Harlequins.
“Our first day of games were against Indonesia and then the team that played under Timor Leste.
“These games were a hard battle and we were pushed to the finish by both teams.
“We won both games, although it was hot and humid – luckily the sea breeze made playing outside under the shade almost perfect conditions.
“When we weren’t competing, some of our players went to play for Timor Leste to show them new skills and we helped Malaysia train before their game.
“Matt even put on a demo match were everyone got involved – even the volunteers – so they could see what the sport was all about.
“On the final day of competition, the Victorian team was very strong and ended up winning the tournament, but the real win was seeing how much all of the teams improved across the tournament.
“We had some amazing nights out as a team, discovering the many food outlets of Bali as well as the hospitality of the Bali Sports Foundation.
“Thanks to DSR and ETU for this opportunity to meet new friends, learn new skills and play some great rugby.”