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Wollongong Roller Hawks Tristan Knowles and Shawn Russell have booked their ticket to Belgium as the Aussie Rollers men’s wheelchair basketball team ramp up preparations ahead of the World Championship in June. 


Knowles Russell Europe PV

The side flew out on March 31st for a series of friendlies against the Netherlands before heading to Belgium for a warm up tournament featuring four of the world’s top 10 men’s teams. 


While Knowles is a mainstay of the national team, the call up for Russell came as a surprise having recently returned from injury, a cyst on a nerve in his shoulder that severely limited his movement.


“I love wearing the green and gold and it’s a bit of a shock, I’ve been injured for three months now and only came back in for the last four or five weeks so to get in there and make an impact as I did and get a chance to represent Australia again in the top fifteen before the Worlds is pretty special,” says Russell.


The 2016 Paralympian has continued to be part of the Australian squad for years but with other players ahead of him at his position, ‘Huss’ has missed the final cut on such tours. This will be his first for Australia since 2019.


“We’re a family, as a unit, no one seems to hold any grudges. Everyone knows our coaches have a hard job to do and our job is to make it as hard as possible for them to select the top twelve players in Australia so everyone understands their position and the points scale of how we play and sometimes you can miss out just due to that fact, points, you don’t fit in combinations but all the guys take it pretty well and understand their position.”


After impressing at a recent camp in Melbourne, Russell has a genuine shot at making the final twelve for the World Championships in the United Arab Emirates.

Russell Europe PV

“Huss was absolutely outstanding and I guess he rose to the challenge the coaching staff threw at every single player and that was, this is the strategy and the tactics we’ll play with and the challenge was thrown out there, we want to see what players can fill the roles,” says Roller Hawks teammate Tristan Knowles.


“It’s going to be a cut-throat tour, we’re taking fifteen away and ultimately we’ll select twelve to play for Australia at the world champs in June. So there’s a lot on the line and players can’t come home with anything left in the bag.”


Eight Australian based players will link up with seven players currently plying their trade professionally in Europe. 


“Says a fair bit about our Aussie based players back here to join our seven guys in Europe. It’s going to be pretty unique in that we have seven guys over there that a lot of us haven’t seen for a while and see how quickly they can fit into the system that we’ve been working on that we think will hold us in pretty good stead in June,” says Knowles.


Belgium’s Easter Wheelchair Basketball Tournament will see Australia take on Canada, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands and Turkey and run from Friday April 7th to 9th.


“It will be good to get over there and catch up with everyone again, brush some cobwebs out in a few practice games against the Netherlands and run our principles and get the team gelling again,” says Russell.


Australia’s fifteen man squad will be cut to twelve for the World Championships which were supposed to be played in Dubai in 2022 but were delayed due to scheduling conflicts with the FIFA World Cup in neighbouring Qatar.


Australia qualified for the World Championships by winning gold at the Asia Oceania Qualifiers in Thailand last May with Knowles named in the tournament’s All Star 5.


“A large part of the team that was successful in qualifiers last year are a part of that 15 man squad but there were certainly some power pieces missing from that qualifying team so we’re going into this with pretty high expectations of ourselves.”