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The Wollongong Roller Hawks are ready to start climbing the mountain once again as they set out to defend their back-to-back National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL)  titles.

training Shawn Russell cropped

“We’re all excited, the guys have been working hard to defend our title and now we’re going for the three-peat this year so we’re looking for a big effort and it will be interesting to see how we start off the season.” says Roller Hawks coach Brendan Dowler.


The Roller Hawks travel to Brisbane as part of the Cluster Round and begin their campaign against arch-rivals Perth who poached Michael Auprince from the defending champions.


“He’s a big body, and obviously a big target.” says Dowler. “In basketball, height is a lot so he definitely will be missed but that’s a challenge for us to step up to. We’ve got some cohesion and we’ve got a lot of experienced players and we’re going to have to work through that, so it will be a big challenge for us.”


After returning to the Roller Hawks last season, Shawn Russell will be called upon by Dowler to fill the void left by the Australian centre.


“It’s a big loss, he’s definitely an awesome player, very tall man but I don’t think my role will change too much.  It will probably stay pretty consistent and just some more minutes.” says Russell


“It’s going to be a big one Friday with Michael Auprince there, so it’s going to be a bit of a grudge match there and they’ve got Shaun Norris arguably one of Australia’s best players so we’ve just got to stick to our processes and try and shut them down.” continued Russell.


Dowler says Russell’s increased game time will lead the Roller Hawks to play a different style of game at times this season.


“He’ll have a different role this year obviously starting. ‘Huss’ is fast, very good chair skills, he definitely brings that to our team and last year we used him more as an impact player off the bench when we needed someone to really get up and down the court for us when other teams started to tire.” says Dowler.


“I’m looking for a big year from Shawn Russell, definitely.”


But the Roller Hawks insist it will be their team ethos and commitment to sticking to the game plan that will see them remain successful.

training Brendan Dowler 2 resize

“We need to be better again to defend our title but we’ve got that advantage of having a number of veteran type players and Australian representatives so my job as a coach is easy in that respect, just trying to encourage everyone and get everyone to the same level.” says Dowler.


“We’re really trying to extend our depth this year. Other teams will be better again this year and will be coming after us even harder so we need to have more depth and more off our bench so we’re definitely looking for more from our extended squad.”


While the Roller Hawks train year round, the intensity at training has lifted as the season draws nearer.


“At the start of the year we were just mucking around and having a bit of a push but the last 8 weeks we’ve been really pushing on team plays we run, fitness and just sharpening everything up really and just getting everyone game fit, getting everyone switched on, talking, communicating. We’ve been doing heaps of defensive drills so we make sure everyone’s on the same page so that when we do play our first game it’s not a shemozzle.” says Russell.


After the Roller Hawks meet Perth on Friday night, they will play Kilsyth on Saturday morning, West Adelaide Thunder on Saturday afternoon and the Red Dust Heelers on Sunday and while there has been some significant player movement in the off season, the Roller Hawks are remaining focussed on their own game.


“Obviously you hear who people are getting and what people are doing but it gets exciting actually because there’s a few good teams this year so it’s going to push us for sure.”  says Russell.



Friday May 10: ROLLER HAWKS vs PERTH WHEELCATS - 7pm @ Logan Metro Sports & Event Centre, QLD

Saturday May 11: ROLLER HAWKS vs KILSYTH - 11am @ Logan Metro Sports & Event Centre, QLD

Saturday May 11: ROLLER HAWKS vs WEST ADELAIDE - 4pm @ Logan Metro Sports & Event Centre, QLD

Sunday May 12: ROLLER HAWKS vs RED DUST - 11am @ Logan Metro Sports & Event Centre, QLD