Australia's Key Players
Our second preview of the
Steelers focuses on three of their key players. In powerhouse Ryley Batt, big
hitter Chris Bond and the ever-experienced hand of Curtis Palmer, the
Australian team have strong team to bring to the BT WWRC.
Name: Ryley Batt
Home: Port Macquarie, NSW
Ryley Batt is only young but with three Paralympic Games already under his belt, he is one of the best and most experienced players in the Steelers team.
Born with a limb deficiency, Ryley does not have legs and required surgery to separate his fingers from each other. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until he was 12 years old that he began to use a wheelchair. It was a wheelchair rugby demonstration at school that finally convinced Ryley to use a wheelchair, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Ryley played in his first domestic competition in 2001; his rise was so meteoric that by 2002 he was representing his country in Japan. At the tender age of 15, Ryley became the youngest Wheelchair Rugby Paralympian at Athens 2004. Provisionally classified as a “mid pointer” (2.5), Ryley was re-classified as a “high pointer” (3.5) at the Athens Paralypics. This required him to adapt to new responsibilities. At the Beijing Games in 2008, Ryley helped his team win a Silver medal after a narrow defeat to the USA. In London 2012 he helped the team win gold, scoring 160 goals during the tournament. This included an impressive 37 in the Gold medal match.
Outside of the wheelchair rugby, Ryley is an adrenaline junkie. He loves to ride quad bikes and is a passionate motorsports fan.
Name: Chris Bond
Home: Fitzgibbon, QLD
When Chris was 19, he suddenly became ill with a rare form of leukaemia. During treatment, he contracted a severe bowl infection that sent him into septic shock. The infection spread through his body and quickly developed into gangrene. With his life in the balance, doctors made the decision to amputate both legs below the knee, his left wrist and all but one of his fingers on his right hand.
Before his illness, Chris was a keen sportsman with a passion for rugby. Whilst still adjusting to life with prosthetic limbs, he vowed to continue playing sport. He began to swim and trained regularly at the AIS swimming pool but found he missed the contact and camaraderie of team sport. After meeting with Australian Wheelchair Rugby Head Coach, Brad Dubberley, Chris’s rugby passion sparked and he began training and playing in the wheelchair rugby national league.
Whilst initially struggling with the physical demands, Chris’s natural talent shone through and was selected for the Australian Wheelchair Rugby squad to play at the 2011 Great Britain Cup. Classified as a 3.5 player, the same as Ryley Batt, Chris was able to get some valuable court time. At his first Paralympic Games in London, Chris was instrumental in their Gold medal winning campaign.
Outside of Wheelchair Rugby, Chris loves to walk his black Labrador. Chris is also a board member for Canteen, a charity that is close to his heart and helps young people living with cancer.
Name: Curtis Palmer
Home: Beaumaris, VIC
For most of Curtis Palmer’s international wheelchair rugby career, he competed for his adopted country of New Zealand. As part of the once dominating “Wheel Blacks”, Curtis tasted success at the highest level. He was instrumental in the New Zealand Gold medal victory in Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. He was also part of the teams that won bronze medals at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
Since returning to Australia in 2012, Australian head coach Brad Dubberley was keen to have Curtis train with the Australian squad, believing his expertise and experience on the court would be valuable to the Australian team. He was right and for the first time in 20 years, Curtis donned the green and gold at the World Championships test event in Denmark 2013.
Curtis took up wheelchair rugby as a way to continue playing sport after a rugby league tackle at 15 years of age resulted in quadriplegia. Flourishing on the rugby court, Curtis uses his experiences in life and sport on the motivational speaking circuit and has also written a book about his life.
Having grown up on Sydney’s northern beaches, Curtis loves the water and enjoys scuba diving, free diving and surfing.
In these three players, Australia is a team to be reckoned with. How will Great Britain, Japan and France cope with them? Let us know on twitter @BTWWRC15.