Our West Coast Enforcers descended on an Arctic Caroline Springs Leisure Centre as they competed in the 2015 Fierce 4 Rugby Melbourne Challenge. Joining WA’s Nick Peters, Dane Kinder, Robyn Lambird-Walton and Aaron Camm were Japanese international Diasuke Ikezaki, Australian international and Paralympic gold medallist Cameron Carr along with South Australian Matt Mitchell. With a couple of late withdrawals from the WA squad due to injury these reinforcements were a huge help for the team. The tournament consisted of two Victorian teams, NSW, QLD and Canada who were preparing for their five match series against the Steelers later in the week.
Day one started with the first of three games, with West Coast taking on Victoria Protect Lightning. This squad featured Australian internationals Jayden Warn, Curtis Palmer and Andrew Harrison. The support play of Nick Peters proved to play a major role in this match as the Enforcers started the tournament with 56-50 win over Vic Lightning with all of our players making a good contribution to the victory. The win helped the Enforcers set the tone on the quality of play they would show throughout the tournament.
The second match was against Victoria Protect Thunder the tougher of the two Vic entries with the squad sporting many members of the Steelers squad. This match featured a one on one duel between current Steelers member Matt “bomber” Lewis and our own import Ike with international low-pointers Nazim Erdem and Jason Lees providing a world class supporting cast for the thunder. Josh Hose another Steelers member showed his quality in this match providing a great test for our Enforcers. Dane Kinder for WA put in a great shift in this match in this match showing why he is a key low-pointer for WA. In the end the Thunder took out victory 65-50 with our Enforcers pushing the international-laden team all the way to the end.
The final match of the Friday was against Queensland. Described as match of the tournament at the 2014 nationals, it did not disappoint in 2015. With QLD welcoming back Australian international Chris Bond and bolstering the squad with kiwi international Cam Leslie the match was a tight encounter. Unfortunately Nick Peters had to sit out part of the match with illness forcing Coach Tom Kyle to re-jig the line-ups. However each member of the squad stepped up and provided a tough contest for QLD. This included the Enforcers running a 7-point line-up (out of 8) at different stages of the match, which would feature throughout the rest of the tournament. However, while playing part of the game under-pointed the Enforcers remained competitive. In the end QLD were the victors taking out the game 54-47.
Day two saw the Enforcers facing reigning Australian champions NSW Gladiators and Paralympic silver medallists Canada. With Nick Peters forced to the sidelines Robyn Lambird-Walton stepped up and played a key role in both these games. The NSW match featured the world’s best Wheelchair Rugby player in Ryley Batt who, as always, proved tough to contain throughout the match. A feature of the match was Robyn’s cool calmness under the intense pressure of Batt. The class of Batt and Andrew Edmondson made the difference as NSW taking out the win 61-45.
The final match for the Enforcers would be the ultimate test for the weekend as they took on the visiting Canadian international team, ranked 2nd in the world. This star-studded line-up would prove to be an immense challenge for our Enforcers. The Enforcers rose to the occasion, matching Canada’s starting line-up goal for goal in the opening stages of the match, forcing Canada to sub on their star 3.5 Zak Madell (2014 World Championships MVP). Throughout the match each and every one of our players had great individual moments where they matched it with the world’s best. The game was a great educational experience for all our players, and something that we will never forget. However, Canada is a world class team and in the end they completed the group stage undefeated with a 67-44 victory over WA. While the score line showed it was our largest defeat of the whole tournament it was definitely the best game that we played over the weekend as every single one of our members rose to the occasion. Our West Coast Enforcers showed that they belonged on the same court as Canada and were definitely not out of their depths.
The weekend finished off with an enthralling see-sawing encounter between NSW and Canada in the Grand Final. Canada proved too good in the end, narrowly beating NSW 62-59.
In summary, our Enforcers showed massive improvement over previous years with each and every one of our local players stepping up their game. The improvement they have shown is evident as in each one of our games we were competitive all the way to the end. The additions of Matt Mitchell, Cameron Carr and Daisuke Ikezaki gave the Enforcers three experienced players that taught a lot to our developing squad, their contribution proved invaluable and has helped set the standard for what should be a great National Championships campaign in August.
A big thankyou to Ability One (www.abilityone.com.au) for their financial support, it is greatly appreciated by the team.
The West Coast Enforcers will next be in action on the 19th-21st August at Sydney Olympic Park as they compete in the 2015 F4R National Championships.
- Aaron Camm
Thank you to Katie Bourke & Steve Walton for taking some great photos: