• Register

The Wollongong Roller Hawks have launched their 2019 National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL) season as the side bids to achieve a rare feat in any sport, a three peat.



The Roller Hawks defeated the top of the ladder Queensland Spinning Bullets 72-65 in the 2018 Grand Final after having to win two sudden death games to make it to the decider.


Looking back on the side’s achievement of winning the 2018 championship, Roller Hawks’ captain Brett Stibners can’t help but savour the moment.  


“It makes me extremely happy, rewatching it. I’ve watched it a few times now. It reminds me that we didn’t have the best season and everything in the finals kind of clicked. We went back to the way we were playing the previous years,” said Stibners.


“The focus for me will be more consistency throughout the season and trying to get everyone involved on court.”


The challenge for Roller Hawks in 2019 is the departure of centre Michael Auprince who will line up for Perth this season. Auprince’s presence has been vital to the club’s success over the last two seasons and his move will change the look of the Roller Hawks this season.


“We’ve still got a very good team, a very well balanced team. We’re missing Michael Auprince but we’ve got another line up we can run with this year so still pretty strong.” said Stibners.


“We’ve only got two high pointers which is myself and Shawn Russell so when we need a break we obviously need somebody else to replace us so with Clay (Kelly) coming back he’s a three pointer so instead of having two high pointers on the court we have one and four mid pointers.”


“Our depth will be a bit short this year so it’s going to be a bit more challenging for our coach to share out the minutes and to make sure we’re fresh at the back end of games.”


As well as the loss of Auprince, Australian Gliders player Hannah Dodd will also be missing from the line up, opting to stay based on the Sunshine Coast after managing a hectic travel schedule for two seasons commuting between Queensland and New South Wales for both mens and womens national league commitments.


Clay Kelly returns to the team replacing Auprince while Tim Rushby-Smith has been promoted from the clubs’ development squad onto the Roller Hawks roster.


“We don’t quite have the personnel of last year but I think we’ve got the team players that can at least make the grand final again.” said Roller Hawks President Jim Williams.


Players and sponsors gathered on Saturday to launch the 2019 season, the club working hard to build a strong base of sponsors to help keep the team on the court.


“We’re very appreciative of the support we have with the sponsorship and the committee as well. We’re a very small market team so it’s harder to come by money so when someone’s willing to put their hand in their pocket to help us out we’re very grateful.” says Stibners.


In every able-bodied national competition (NBL, NRL, AFL), players are professional athletes and their sport is also their career. The Roller Hawks compete in Australia’s elite wheelchair basketball league but no athlete within the National Wheelchair Basketball League is paid.


The Roller Hawks are a volunteer based club, with all sponsorship and fundraising channelled into keeping the players on the court and competing against the best throughout the country.


“The committee and the players have gone out and spoken to friends and people they deal with out in the community, business people and asked, begged in some cases probably, to get enough money for us to compete in a national league.” said Williams.


The Roller Hawks wish to thank the following organisations for supporting us in the 2019 season;


All Fab Construction, Lancaster Law & Mediation, Set4Life, Peoplecare, Ability Options, Vintage Sprintcar Association of Australia, Money Quest, Rotary Club of Shellharbour City, Baimed, South Coast Decorative Concrete Supplies, Paul Scully MP, Phoenix Mobile Laundry Services, Mogo Wheelchairs, Dolphin Point Homes, Potters Contracting, Nowra Speedway, UOW Printery, Aceit, Microsolve BluescopeWIN Community Partnerships, Wheelchair Sports NSW, Illawarra Leagues Club