ROLLERS TOUR BELGIUM AND NETHERLANDS UNDER NEW COACH CRAIG FRIDAY

ROLLERS TOUR BELGIUM AND NETHERLANDS UNDER NEW COACH CRAIG FRIDAY

In their first international tours since the Rio Paralympics and under new coach Craig Friday, the Australian Rollers completed friendly series’ in the Netherlands and Belgium at the Parantee Paralympics Championship Tournament.

The team consisted of Josh Allison, Jannik Blair, Adam Deans, Damon Fent, Jake Kavanagh, Bill Latham, Matt McShane, Shaun Norris, Luke Pople, Kim Robins, Shawn Russell, Brett Stibners and Tristan Knowles.

In a chilly Netherlands, the Rollers started with two clashes against Japan in as many days and shook off any rust and signs of jet lag with a 68-39 victory.

Leading by only three points at quarter-time, Australia built on the momentum they had gained from the opening tip and showcased tight defensive sets and some un-guardable ball movement on their way to the win.

Even more positively, Coach Friday was able to utilise his entire roster with every player hitting the scoreboard and Robins and Norris top-scoring with 13 points.

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The following day the Rollers were not as polished offensively but held Japan to just 13 points across the second and third terms to win 61-34.

Brad Ness, in a player/coach capacity, led all scorers with 20 points while Brett Stibners added nine.

“It was nice to see some of the work we have done start to be implemented albeit against an understrength opposition,” Friday said.

On Day 3 of the tour, Australia faced Japan again who showcased an up-tempo style of play that bothered the Rollers through the first half.

From there, Australia were able to take control courtesy of a mid-point offence led by Norris, Stibners and Robbins on their way to a 65-52 victory.

Just a few hours later, they backed up against the Netherlands and jumped out to an early 16-4 lead.

The hosts tightened their defence from there and Australia found the going tough although Ness’ elbow jumpers maintained their advantage and when the Rollers matched the Netherlands defence under their own basket, they were able to hang on, succeeding by 11 points.

On the final day in Papendal, Australia capped off an unbeaten run against the Netherlands, winning 71-63.

Their first three quarters especially were outstanding as Norris (19 points) scored 13 in the first term before Ness (13 points) and Deans (nine points) controlled the tempo for the rest of the contest.

Taking confidence from their success in the Netherlands, Australia headed to the Belgian coastal town of Blankenberge where they first matched up with their Rio quarter-final opponents in Great Britain.

The Rollers stuck fast through most of the first half, only trailing by a couple of possessions but a late Great Britain run pushed the margin out to double-digits at half-time.

Stibners and Norris struggled to find their shooting stroke in the second half as the lead ballooned and by the final siren, Australia fell 46-68.

The tough tasks continued the following day as they faced Rio medallists Spain but following a 13-2 run to start the game, Australia never looked back as they pulled off a big win thanks to Latham’s 19 points who led every Roller on the scoreboard.

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Latham (20 points, ten rebounds) continued his hot form later that day as the Aussies kept up their winning ways against the Netherlands, defeating them in overtime, 61-57.

Trailing by six with less than two minutes left in regulation, Stibners nailed a huge three-pointer followed by an important basket from Pople before Norris sent the game into an extra period with a baseline shot.

While not the prettiest victory, Australia exemplified their fighting spirit in the win and they finished off the tour in style the next day against Japan.

Leading wire to wire, the Rollers were very efficient from the field, shooting 61% and getting great production off their bench to back up Norris (22 points, seven rebounds) and Russell (nine points, seven boards, six assists).

The start of the next chapter, this tour provided a strong base for the Rollers to build off as they look towards the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

The Australian Rollers European Tour record:

4-0 vs. Japan
3-0 vs. Netherlands
1-0 vs. Spain
0-1 vs. Great Britain

8-1 overall.

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