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The Sureway Wollongong Roller Hawks have new bragging rights, claiming victory in both first and second division of the 2022 Wheelchair Basketball Illawarra Festival.


The Illawarra Festival, one the southern hemisphere’s largest wheelchair basketball tournaments, played host to 13 teams across two divisions (Competitive & Development) across Saturday and Sunday at Shoalhaven Indoor Sports Centre.


The Roller Hawks Division 1 team featured Nick Taylor, Brett Stibners, Luke Pople, Darren Hayes, Tim Rushby-Smith and Brian Gardner along with NSW juniors Mitchell Collins and Cooper Larleton and were able to outclass the New Zealand Roller Blacks in the Gold Medal game winning 63-40.


“Tough to play seven games in one day and full 10 minute, four quarter games, tough on the body when you’re getting a bit older but we had some guys rotating through, so a bit of strategy required but we enjoyed it,” says Nick Taylor.


The Roller Hawks went undefeated across the weekend with Taylor in fine touch, claiming the first division scoring title and All-Star Five honours alongside Stibners.


Although outgunned in the final, New Zealand relished the opportunity to come to Australia after two years of COVID and test themselves against Australia’s best.


“It was pretty full on. We loved every minute of it. It was the most games we’ve played this season, so it was great to see everyone really get into it” says New Zealand’s Kauri Murray.


New Zealand’s silver coming after winning gold in the Masters (over 40s) on Thursday.


“COVID has been really tough on us and on everyone and it was a massive opportunity for us to come over and have that experience and play overseas, especially against top world class players.”


In the second division, the Illawarra Eagles rolled with just five players across the weekend with James Williams, Didem Yildirim, Joe Jankowski, Mark Hutchings and Patricia Luff also going undefeated to win gold.


“We have our ups and downs, sometimes we play pretty well, and sometimes we’re under pressure but we’ve been playing together for so many years now that we know how to work together,” says Yildirim.

On Friday, Shellharbour City Stadium played host to the event’s first 3X3 tournament with Brett Stibners, Jarrod Emeny and Brian Gardner leading the Roller Hawks to victory.