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Two weeks after the Rollers’ epic victory in Thailand that secured their berth at the Paris Paralympics, the Just Better Care Roller Hawks’ representative contingent is back on court with their club teammates. 



Luke Pople was on court as the buzzer sounded in the gold medal game, coming on for the final four and half minutes having sat on the bench up until that point. 



“We needed to get stops and control the last couple of minutes of the game, we hadn’t used that lineup a whole lot throughout the tournament but it was one full of guys with experience,” says Pople.


And when Iran’s last gasp shot with three seconds to go missed?


“Mostly relief, and then an overwhelming feeling of joy and excitement, knowing that we had just secured our ticket for Paris.”


Pople averaged 11.4 minutes per game (87th in the tournament) but made good use of his time, averaging 3.8 assists per game (16th).


“We had the deepest bench for sure, we have guys that know their role and when we all do that together we can be unstoppable. I was happy with my performance over the tournament, I didn’t have to do much more than just play my game and knowing I had full trust from the coaches and my teammates it was easy to do that.”


Fellow Roller Hawk Shawn Russell was also happy to embrace the role he was given. 


“Head coach Brad Ness had absolute confidence in every player in the team and put players on the floor that best suited our opposition. My role for the tournament was more of a support role. My ability to come into a game cold and to keep the playing standard for a period, so others can get a rest or if they were in foul trouble. I like this role and am happy to help the team however I can,” says Russell.


“I am extremely proud of the team and what we achieved in Thailand. Everyone was contributing both on and off the court. The team, compared to the last time we were all together, seemed to have a newfound spark. It just felt like we wanted it more than ever. Was amazing to be a part of!”


The Rollers faced not only the best teams in the region but some of the best in the world. Iran finished third at the 2023 World Championships and Japan finished second at the last Paralympics.


“In the quarter final against South Korea when we were down by a few points with only five minutes left, it hit me that possibly we might not qualify for the Paralympics for the first time for as long as I can remember. In that moment I realised how much qualifying means to me. Securing that win and beating Iran in the final was a massive sigh of relief and allows the team to focus on the fine tuning of our game plan, knowing that we have a guaranteed spot for Paris,” says Russell.


“It’s a great step in the right direction for our program moving forward. Being able to go through undefeated against some quality teams is something we should be proud of and we now have to use this momentum going forward,” adds Pople.


With their ticket secured for Paris, the focus is to stay fit and keep preparing for the Games.


“For most of the team, this trip was the first time we have been together since Dubai and we had a few newcomers. I believe the focus for us moving towards August will be to get time together to smooth out our game plan and increase game time together to build our team chemistry,” says Russell.