It wasn't until about 1990 when a couple of guys - Rob Dickie and Kevin Griffiths - bought this game called Murder Ball to New Zealand. I was in my day chair - we didn't have rugby chairs in those days - and I looked at it and thought, ‘I could have a go at this.’ I was out on the court for about two minutes and when I came off with my heart beating furiously. Messages were racing up to my brain saying: 'What the hell are you doing man, you're not built for this, you’re built for comfort not for speed!'. I was overweight but I was hooked - it was the team thing. You couldn't win without your team mates and it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of physical contact - there were very few rules back in those days - ‘don't lose’ was the only rule I can remember but I wasn't too clear on how you did win, it was just free form. Wheel Blacks
Since then I have had a very rewarding and colourful wheelchair rugby career that includes the following:
• Competed in the first New Zealand team at the Inaugural Australian Nationals in 1991. (Bronze)
• Selected into Wheel Blacks when the team was formed in 1993.
• Played first official test, New Zealand versus Australia 1995. (won 36-30)
• Member of the Wheel Blacks team that went to the World Championships in Switzerland in 1995. (Bronze medal)
• Captain of the Wheel Blacks during the Test Series in Australia in 1996. (won 3-2)
• Captain of the Wheel Blacks at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996. (Bronze medal)
• Captain of the Wheel Blacks at the World Championships in Toronto 1998. (Silver medal)
• Named as best 1.0 point player of the Toronto tournament and all star team.
• Captain of the Wheel Blacks at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000. (Bronze medal)
After the disappointing bronze medal in Sydney, I came home disillusioned and struggling for motivation. Training wasn’t exactly an activity I liked doing so after a few training sessions I went home and made the painful decision to retire.
After two years away from the sport, and following the disastrous result the team suffered at the 2002 World Championships, where they finished sixth, I decided to put my hat in the ring for the position of Head Coach. With no previous coaching experience and a Coaching Level One certificate I applied for, and got, the role.
Coaching involved a very steep learning curve but the success I enjoyed came because I had a committed team of athletes and a very talented and supportive management group of Ashley Light, Malcom Humm, Lea Stenning, Rod Corban to name but a few. On a personal level, the work Graeme Robson did with me as my Coach Support and Mentor, simply cannot be underestimated. Coaching is a team effort – the better your management team, the better your results. The one thing I never reckoned on was the sheer volume of work and massive level of commitment. While it was hugely rewarding and an experience I will never forget, it left me completely shattered.
• Appointed Wheel Black Coach in 2003 for Athens 2004 Paralympics. (Gold medal)
• Reappointed Wheel Black Coach for the World Championships in Christchurch 2006. (Silver medal)
• Reappointed Wheel Black Coach for Beijing 2008 Paralympics. (Fifth)
While I didn’t have a chance to play club rugby, my involvement with the Rugby Foundation has made me feel part of the rugby fraternity. The Foundation has assisted me personally and has played a role supporting wheelchair rugby in New Zealand and the Wheel Blacks. They sponsor our domestic competition and have supplied rugby chairs for a number of injured rugby players wanting to play wheelchair rugby. Please check out NZ Rugby Foundation Website