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The Roller Hawks have defeated both of last year's grand finalists on the way to 3 wins from 4 games in the opening round of the National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL).

The ‘Cluster Round’ this year saw all 6 NWBL teams travel to Newcastle Basketball Stadium where each team played 4 games over three days.


The Roller Hawks began the round on Friday night against the Perth Wheelcats. Despite leading at the all three breaks, the Roller Hawks were reminded why Perth had contested 9 straight NWBL Grand Finals prior to withdrawing from the 2015 season.

The Wheelcats' grinding defense caught up with the Roller Hawks midway through the fourth quarter as Shaun Norris and Kim Robins combined to give Perth a 63-62 lead with 4:37 left in the game.

Andrew Tarrant then went to the line and made 1 from 2 after being fouled by Amber Merritt which leveled the scores at 63-63 with 4:14 left on the clock.  The scores remained neck and neck down the stretch with Nick Taylor sinking consecutive shots for the Roller Hawks before Shaun Norris sunk another 2 pointer to give Perth a 69-67 lead with 1:53 left.

Following a timeout the Roller Hawks had their chances but failed to find the bottom of the net while Norris sank one of two from the free throw line before Kayl Jeffrey iced the victory for Perth with his first basket of the night to give Perth a 72-67 victory.

Brett Stibners led the way with 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, Luke Pople had 16 points and 8 rebounds while Tarrant was efficient with his 14 points on 6/7 shooting.


The task for the Roller Hawks didn't get any easier on Saturday with matches against both of last year's grand finalists, starting with the Red Dust Heelers.

The Roller Hawks were more patient with their offence resulting in 24 assists compared to 13 the previous night. The Heelers struggled to contain Wollongong who opted to run with a bigger line up for most of the game. The Roller Hawks' 53% shooting percentage kept the game in their favour and was despite missing a number of easy lay ups underneath the basket.

Wollongong remained in control for much of the game and muscled up in defense when the Heelers started to mount a last quarter comeback to close out the win 69-61.

Brett Stibners led the way with 23 points along with 16 rebounds and 7 assists, Luke Pople had 17 points on 50% shooting and Nick Taylor proved  crucial to the Roller Hawks' improved offence with 10 assists.


The Roller Hawks's second game of the day and third of the weekend went right down to the wire, with defending champions Kilsyth leading for most of the game.

The Cobras went to a 21-15 lead at quarter time but a 9-2 start to the second quarter saw the Roller Hawks grab a 24-23 lead. Kilsyth responded and jumped back out to a 9 point lead before a Luke Pople 3 pointer midway through the second quarter sparked another run by the Roller Hawks that saw them trailing by only 1 with 0:28 left in the half.  

A 2 points shot by Cobras' captain Tristan Knowles saw Kilsyth take a 38-35 lead at the main break.

The ebb and flow of the second quarter continued into the third and then the fourth as neither team could stamp their authority in the match as both sides applied tough defense.

With just over 2 minutes left to play and scores tied at 61-61, Knowles made a three point play to give the defending premiers the lead. Pople responded with two points of his own to draw within 1 before Andrew Tarrant sunk a shot to give the Roller Hawks the lead after Kilsyth's Shawn Russell turned over possession from an offensive foul.

Another foul by Russell sent Roller Hawks captain Brett Stibners to the line where he calmly sunk both free throws.

Trailing by three with 6 seconds left on the clock, Kilsyth called a time out to draw up a play. Knowing only a three would be enough, Russell launched a shot from beyond the arc that banked off the backboard into the hands of Damon Fent who got the put back to close the gap to 1.

Wollongong in bounded the ball to an open Nick Taylor who ran down the final two seconds of the match to give the Roller Hawks the win.

Luke Pople lead the Roller Hawks scoring with 18 points on 12/18 shooting while Brett Stibners and Nick Taylor both had 16 points with Stibners also grabbing 10 rebounds and 7 assists.  

“I didn’t think we’d win this game,” said Stibners. I’d seen their first two games and they hadn’t dropped off from last year and we were missing two of our starters.”

“We started slow and Kilsyth had a 6 point lead at quarter time but (coach) Jim (Williams) said just chip away and see where we are at half time.”

“In the fourth we shared the ball and made shots we weren’t making in the first three quarters.”


In the side's final game of the round the Roller Hawks left it till the final quarter to put away the Queensland Spinning Bullets who trailed by just 2 points at three quarter time.

The Bullets' Tom O'Neill-Thorne landed the first field goal of the final quarter to bring his side to within a point at 38-37 only for the side to go scoreless for the 5 minutes as Wollongong kept the scoreboard ticking over to build a 9 point lead.

A basket by Michael McShane broke the drought for the Spinning Bullets with 4:36 left in the game but was followed by more points being piled on by the Roller Hawks who finished the game by outscoring the Spinning Bullets 14-2.

"We weren't playing well in the first half and were missing makeable shots. In the second half we made the shots. It was simple as that," said Stibners.

Brett Stibners lead all scorers with 21 points and 10 rebounds with Nick Taylor adding 16 points and 11 assists.

“The most pleasing thing for me was how we hung in during all of our games and just tried to play our brand of basketball. We want to be selfless, giving up a good shot for a great shot and pushing hard for each other.”

The Roller Hawks have a bye in Round 2 and return to action in Round 3 against the Perth Wheelcats at the Snake Pit.

Saturday April 30: WOLLONGONG ROLLER HAWKS vs PERTH WHEELCATS - 5pm @ Snake Pit