Rollers make winning start to European tour

Rollers make winning start to European tour

The Australian Rollers men’s national wheelchair basketball team have made a winning start to their tour of Europe, claiming back-to-back victories in The Netherlands over the weekend.

Arriving in the city of Arnhem on Friday, the Rollers wasted no time settling into their new surrounds, getting over a plucky Israel team 76-69 on Saturday before accounting for the host nation 24 hours later 73-53 to ensure a winning start to the tour.

Facing a tough Israeli outfit, the Rollers were made to work from the outset, with the defending IWBF World Champions holding a 38-34 advantage over Israel at the main break.

Down one of the top scorers in Shaun Norris (illness), the Rollers only sealed victory late on, outscoring their opponents 23-17 in the final quarter to secure a seven-point win.

It was a special occasion for Marcus Chiavelli, Joshua Allison, Andrew Liddawi and Samuel White, with the quartet making their Rollers’ debuts against Israel, impressing to ensure it would be a winning start to their senior international careers.

Veteran Justin Eveson stepped up in the absence of Norris to score a team-high 20 points, finding support from Nick Taylor (18 points) and Tristan Knowles (10 points).

Happy to shake off the jet lag and come away with a win, Australian Rollers Head Coach Ben Ettridge said he was impressed by the efforts of his four debutants in a challenging first-up game.

“The Israeli team were a real handful – similar to how they played against us at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics,” Ettridge said.

“I was really proud of the four new guys, who didn’t look out of place considering it was their first game with the Rollers.

“With Shaun (Norris) out, we saw our senior players really step up and take on the extra scoring load.”

Starting to feel at home in the Dutch surrounds, the Rollers burst out of the blocks against The Netherlands, quickly establishing a 23-10 lead by quarter time. This double-digit advantage would give the Rollers the edge for the rest of the game, eventually claiming the win by a margin of 20 points.

Eveson was leading from the front for the Rollers, dropping a game-high 18 points, while Taylor and Brad Ness (12 points each) added to the team’s offensive punch.

Ettridge was pleased with another solid hit out for his team, believing the chemistry of the team on the offensive end is coming together well.

“The Netherlands team pushed us for the full 40 minutes and it was good to see how we worked through the game,” Ettridge.

“Shaun Norris slotted back into the combinations nicely and Nick Taylor's outside shooting along with the presence of our bigs inside was a positive.”

The Rollers prepare for their third game in as many days when they face the Dutch tonight (AEDT).