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Illawarra will field two teams in the second iteration of the NSW Wheelchair Basketball Waratah League, which this year will feature two divisions tipping off on the 24th June on the Central Coast.



Co-delivered by Basketball NSW and Wheelchair Sport NSW/ACT, the Waratah League was created in 2022 to provide a missing step in the development pathway for wheelchair basketball in NSW.  


“A lot of work goes in to putting these competitions together, Wheelchair Sport NSW’s experience in wheelchair basketball competitions and Basketball NSW’s know how of Waratah League competition have combined to make this happen for both able-bodied and disability players to play wheelchair basketball at the state level and close the gap for everyone to enjoy,” says Illawarra Waratah coach Pablo Jimenez.

Brian Gardner James Williams

Pictured: Brian Gardner (left) and James Williams, mainstays of the Illawarra Eagles Development Team also train with the senior squad each week. 

Once again the
Just Better Care Wollongong Roller Hawks will team up with the Illawarra Basketball Association but this year will field two sides in Division 1. 


Division 1 will feature Illawarra Hawks White and Illawarra Hawks Red along with Blacktown Storm and an All Stars team.


Division 2 will feature Hills Hornets, Canberra Gunners, Newcastle Falcons, Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, Sutherland Sharks and Central Coast Crusaders.


The split into two divisions will allow the emerging teams in Division 2 to develop at an appropriate level and allow Division 1 teams to field some of the country's best players and compete at a high level.


“A lot has changed since the first season of Waratah League and that’s part of the process of starting something new,” says Roller Hawks Club President Geoff Adams.


“In 2022 the Waratah League was one league which had a draft to spread the talent around. The problem was the league clashed with the National League and the Commonwealth Games so not only were a lot of those top players not available both for us and the other teams, Illawarra players who were available were suiting up for other associations when our team was short on players.”


“You can never be all things to all people but by having two divisions you can better cater to national league players looking for more opportunities to play and emerging teams and players who aren’t quite at that level yet.”


The Roller Hawks have split their players into two evenly matched squads to ensure one isn’t ‘stacked’ but also making for marquee games every round when the two sides meet each other.


“Roller Hawk versus Roller Hawk is going to be great. I’ve seen these guys go at it in training, they love to compete and sometimes some of the best competition they have is against each other.”


Illawarra Hawks White will feature 4 time Paralympian Brett Stibners, current Australian Glider Hannah Dodd as well as Roller Hawks teammates Nick Taylor, Jarrod Emeny, and Darren Hayes, along with James Williams, Didem Yildrem, Javier Jimenez and Steve Elliott.


Illawarra Hawks Red line up includes Australian Rollers Tristan Knowles and Shawn Russell, Commonwealth Gold medalist Luke Pople, Roller Hawk Tim-Rushby-Smith along with Brian Gardner, Mitch Stone and former Roller Hawks Eino Okkonen and Mark Hutchins.


“Putting the two Illawarra teams together was not easy,” says Jimenez.


“Having players from our four time NWBL Champions, and our very successful Illawarra Eagles Country Cup winners, mixing those players and adding a couple of development players into the side and getting the balance right will show when we play this coming weekend.”


The Roller Hawks and the Illawarra Basketball Association hope their ongoing venture will help wheelchair basketball go to the next level.


“We’re very proud of the independence the Roller Hawks have built over the years but strategic partnerships like this and the one Wheelchair Sports has with Basketball NSW are about benefiting and growing the game,” says Adams. 


“Partnering with the Roller Hawks demonstrates the IBA's commitment to promoting inclusivity in basketball,” says Illawarra Basketball Association Executive General Manager Oscar Forman. 


“By supporting wheelchair basketball, the IBA shows that we value and provide opportunities for athletes with disabilities to participate in the sport.”


“The partnership can hopefully raise awareness about wheelchair basketball and the challenges faced by athletes with disabilities. Through joint events, tournaments, or promotional campaigns, the IBA can help promote the Roller Hawks and increase visibility for wheelchair basketball in the region.”


Forman says helping improve the pathway from beginner to elite is vital in all formats of the game.


“It is incredibly important at the IBA that we build and provide pathways. Recently our NBL1 Men’s program was completed by connecting junior males to youth to NBL1 through to NBL with the Hawks. The Waratah league does similar in the wheelchair space and hopefully together with the Roller Hawks we can build out some experiences and holiday camps to bring further awareness and support to the Roller Hawks.”


Waratah League Draw

Round 1 June 24th @ Niagara Park

Round 2 July 8th @ Minto

Round 3 July 29th @ Shellharbour

Round 4 August 19th @ Blacktown

Finals August 26th @ TBC