The Asteron Life West Coast Enforcers have taken out bronze at the 2015 GIO Fierce 4 Rugby National Championships in a pulsating double over-time match with the Victoria Protect Thunder finishing the match 57-55.
After months of hard work and training the West Coast squad assembled in Perth for a training camp to prepare for the championships. Local WA players Robyn Lambird-Walton, Jayde Seed, Jake Howe, Nick Peters (Co-captain) and Dane Kinder (Co-captain) were joined by Australian International Cameron Carr and Japanese International Diasuke “Ike” Ikezaki. Under the tutelage of Head Coach Tom Kyle and Team Manager Pantazis “Yogi” Houlis the team were put through their paces ensuring they went into the tournament with the best preparation.
The Enforcers kicked off their campaign against Vero New Zealand who had entered a full strength side in this year’s championships as preparation for their bid to qualify for Rio at the Asia/Oceania championships later in the year. West Coast controlled the game from the outset going into taking a nine goal lead in to half time. The Enforcers kept up the same pressure in the second half beating NZ 52-38 to get their campaign off to a great start.
The second game of day one was against Victoria Protect Thunder in a thrilling encounter that seesawed from tip off. WA went out to a five goal lead until Victoria turned that around, gaining a five goal lead themselves. The game continued as a topsy-turvy tussle throughout all four quarters. On equal scores Ike was heading towards goal for the match winner, only for Victoria’s Matt “Bomber” Lewis to strip Ike of the ball at the death, sending the game to over-time. The match when to an incredible three periods of over-time with Victoria eventually clinching the win in 3OT, taking out the game 62-61, showing just howly closely matched these teams were.
Day two tipped-off with the Enforcers taking on the Suncorp QLD Cyclones with an eye on a potential Grand Final berth the Enforcers went hard against QLD. However, the class of Chris Bond and company proved too good this time round for the Enforcers with QLD securing the win 63-53. The second game of day two for the Enforcers was against border rivals AAMI SA Sharks. The Enforcers took a commanding 18-6 lead in the first quarter and maintained their advantage throughout the game to defeat South Australia 59-43.
The final day of competition started with the undefeated heavy weights of the tournament, the GIO NSW Gladiators. West Coast produced one of their greatest first half performances going into half time with a one goal lead against the reigning champions. However, with both sides having one eye on their already confirmed medal matches they rotated their line ups to keep the squads fresh for the all-important bronze and gold medal matches to come. NSW ended up keeping their perfect tournament alive winning the match 67-52.
The Asteron Life West Coast Enforcers final match of the tournament was a rematch against the Victoria Protect Thunder for Bronze. Much like the pool match between these two sides this would be a match with shifting momentum. The Vics took an early lead starting strongly, ending the first period with a 2 goal lead. In the second quarter WA put in a strong effort, gaining a couple of turnovers, to take a one goal lead into half time. WA continued the pressure in the third quarter forcing Victoria to cough up a multitude of turnovers to take a 5 goal lead into the final break. Victoria swung the momentum back applying pressure right from the start of the fourth quarter, fighting back to level the score. With 39.8 remaining on the clock WA took the lead but Matt “Bomber” Lewis, the villain from the first match, evened the score with only a few seconds left on the clock. WA tried to rush up the court for the winner but with little time on the clock the game went to overtime.
The first period of over time saw goals and turnovers traded between both sides but neither side were able to gain the upper hand, so another period of OT was required. In 2OT the Enforcers won the tip and converted that possession into a goal, to take the advantage and then on the first Victorian possession WA applied the pressure and were able to force a turnover. WA inbounded the ball but were forced low in to the court and had to let loose a long pass up the court with Cam Carr able to carry the ball over the line. This gave WA a two goal lead and control of the match. The final pivotal moment of the game saw Matt Lewis penalised for travelling only a few feet from goal. This saw WA take possession and see out the end of the match to take out the win and securing bronze (57-55). This was West Coast’s first medal in eleven years and was a gutsy performance from the team.
Congratulations to every single member of the team who had contributed over the tournament. The bronze medal was a team effort with each squad member contributing in some way and doing their best when called upon. Thank you to Cam and Ike who provided us with great experience and knowledge. Their contribution to our continued development has been priceless.
A big shout out to the ninth member of our team Emily Prior who was tireless in her cheering of our team from the bench throughout the week. Thank you to Jen who has been a fantastic supporter of our team as well.
The team would like to thank our coach Tom “McFlurry” Kyle for guiding the team to its best performance in eleven years. We would also like to thank Yogi for his amazing effort in ensuring that we take to the court every week. The WA Wheelchair Rugby program would be a lot worse off if it wasn’t for the time and effort Yogi gives to the team. Thank you to Carroll and Vani who provided great assistance throughout the week.
The West Coast Enforcers would like to thank our naming rights sponsor Asteron Life. We would also like to thank John Morris and the team at Ability One for their support. UWA Rugby club this year have become key supporters of our team and we would like to thank them for the support they have given us this year. A big thankyou to GIO for their support on putting on a top class event in Sydney and also the team at Disability Sports Australia who organise such a magnificent tournament. Thank you to Hayden Lewis and Wheelchair Sports WA, who help us keep organised behind the scenes.