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The Just Better Care Wollongong Roller Hawks welcome the return of the National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL) with the announcement of the 2024 draw. 

National wheelchair basketball will return to the Illawarra across five weekends through June, July and August starting with Round 1 against league newcomers the Manly Wheel Eagles with two games to be played on June 15; a 12pm game at Shellharbour City Stadium and 7pm at the Snakepit, Beaton Park.

Round 2 sees the Roller Hawks host the Darwin Salties, the two sides meeting for the first time since an epic grand final at the Wheelchair Leagues Cup in Brisbane in 2023. 

In Round 4, the Roller Hawks play the Perth Wheelcats in another blockbuster. Perth were runners up to Wollongong in the last NWBL season in 2022.

The Roller Hawks’ final home round is against the Red Dust Heelers coached by Australian Rollers coach Brad Ness.

Brendan Dowler

“The league is shaping up to be much stronger than it has been for some time,” says Roller Hawks coach Brendan Dowler.

“A few teams that dropped out through Covid are back, most of the Australian representative players are playing and there is word of overseas players also boosting some teams. There hasn't been this much excitement in the build up to a season for a long time.”

The Roller Hawks have a favourable away draw, avoiding road trips to Perth and Darwin and playing two games of what is technically an away fixture against Manly in the Illawarra.

In addition to their third game against the Wheel Eagles in Manly on Sunday, June 16, their additional away games include Round 3 against the Adelaide Thunder and Round 7 against Brisbane based Southern Districts Spartans.

“There are pros and cons to home or away games,” adds Dowler. 

“At home it's all familiar, you sleep in your own comfortable bed, there's no planes, buses and motel rooms. Not living out of a bag. But going away there aren't the distractions there might be at home and we can focus on the job at hand.” 

“We move around as a group, eat meals together, and interact more outside of game time, so it adds to the team building and chemistry as a group. It doesn't matter who we play where, we'll need to be on our game each time with such a strong league this season.”

Both the men’s and women’s leagues will culminate in a finals series on August 10th and 11th at Shellharbour City Stadium.

This is the first time the NWBL has had a proper home and away season since 2019.

The NWBL will return under the guidance of a new entity, Wheelchair Basketball Australia, established to oversee the National Wheelchair Basketball League and the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League (WNWBL).

The WBA is endorsed by Basketball Australia, with Basketball Australia remaining the governing body for wheelchair basketball and the sport’s senior and junior national teams.

Roller Hawks players Tristan Knowles, Shawn Russell, Luke Pople and Brett Stibners are currently in Belgium with the Aussie Rollers for the 2024 International Easter Tournament, a warm up competition held over three days from March 29-31 and this year featuring Australia, Colombia, Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.

They will then return to Wollongong and resume training with the Roller Hawks ahead of the NWBL season.

“It's great for the club to have representation on the national team. They bring that higher standard and expectation back to the Roller Hawks and it lifts us all as a group. It looks like every team will have players from the national team or overseas this year so we'll really need to be at our best for every game to get the result we want,” says Dowler.

Sponsorship packages for the 2024 season are now on sale, contact the Wollongong Roller Hawks for a proposal.