Courage, comradery and empowerment – wheelchair rugby at its best

By Ryley Batt

The Australian Steelers were very excited to arrive in New Zealand last month to compete at the Asia Oceania Wheelchair Rugby Championships in Auckland, and there were so many things we looked forward to during this important trip.

Steelers

Australian Steelers, led by captain Ryley Batt.

The Steelers had worked hard to keep up our momentum since winning the Paralympic title for the second time in a row. But away from being on the court with the other strong teams in attendace, I knew myself and the guys were really looking forward to seeing the competition come together, and continuing our collective work to grow wheelchair rugby on a global scale.

I know most people would think the rivalry between Australia and NZ would be fierce and all about results – a bit like it is with the Wallabies and All Blacks. But things work a little differently for us.

As teams, we love any opportunity to compete together, particularly outside of a Paralympic Games or World Championships, and particularly enjoy the chance to work with other countries to strengthen our sport. And that’s what I love about all Para-sport in general.

As wheelchair rugby continues to evolve and build a following, I really look forward to seeing sports fans around the world really embrace this too. Wheelchair rugby and Para-sport is most definitely about the best of the best competing in fair, tough competition, but it’s also about so much more.

Winning another gold medal at the Paralympics in Rio last year was no doubt one of the highlights of my career, but what I loved most was talking to people watching at home and seeing what they got out of it.

Rio

I loved hearing about how noticeable it was that each team co-operated with each other, staff, coaches and officials and how things worked smoothly. I loved hearing comments about how each team pumped each other up and were proud of each other’s achievements on and off the court.

Para-sport, and wheelchair rugby specifically, is about getting out there and being courageous. Putting everything in for your team and for everyone at home.  I know all of us in the Steelers get so much out of surprising our friends, family and fans out there with what we can do. We’re always so determined to do that.

Being able to do that, with athletes from other countries who are also up there with the best, most definitely has an effect on the wider community – whether we’re motivating them personally or whether we’re breaking down misconceptions about disability.

And that’s what I was most looking forward to about being in New Zealand.

To the sports fans in Auckland, and even the ones following their teams from home, I hope these matches empowered and excited you. Beyond the thrill of the metal on metal clash, I hope that you left the stadium inspired, motivated and pumped up to see more from us – more of our ability in our sports, rather than our disabilities.

As expected, the big guns were firing in Auckland, with teams from New Zealand, Japan, South Korean and Australia giving their all.

It was great to have so much support behind us, seeing. I can’t wait to hear what you came away with.

I’m looking forward to next year’s World Championship in Sydney  which will be an exciting opportunity to further promote disability sport in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.

Ryley

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Ryley Batt is the captain of the Australian wheelchair rugby team and a four-time Paralympian. Regarded as one of the best wheelchair rugby athletes in the world, he has helped lead the Australia to two Paralympic gold medals and one world championship.

Why Prime Ministerial Visits Matter

Peter Woolcott

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New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Queenstown for the annual Leaders Meeting.

As the Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand the event you look forward to most each year is the annual Leaders Meeting.

While invariably short, these visits can accomplish a huge amount for a bilateral relationship.  They set the direction for work that will continue long after the PM’s plane leaves, and they build the foundations of mutual respect and trust between leaders which is so important in maintaining strong relationships between countries. It is also a chance to cut through bureaucratic thickets and get decisions made.

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Capital cities pioneering wildlife conservation together

Alison Russell-French

ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary and the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust join forces.

There are two sanctuaries that lie across the Tasman, nestled in the capital of Australia. In one, birds dive, swoop and flutter in water against the backdrop of the city; in the other miniature kangaroos and spotted carnivorous marsupials rummage through tufts of grass and gumtrees inside the protective guard of a predator-proof fence. Jerrabomberra Wetlands and Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary.

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‘ZEALANDIA by Night’ inspired the formation of Twilight Tours at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary. Here a group meet before embarking through the sanctuary at night in search of unique native wildlife. Photograph by Stephen Corey Continue reading

Australia lends a hand in Kaikoura

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After the earthquakes in Kaikoura last week, the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Darwin, Commanding Officer CMDR Phillip Henry and her crew were sent to support the response to the emergency.

As Lieutenant Brett Schulz said, in the Navy you have to “remain rubbery” – flexible and ready for change.

“One minute you might be ironing your whites in preparation for a Fleet Review, the next minute you’re in a sea boat heading ashore to render assistance to an earthquake affected town.”

LSET Vinnie Carrol and LSA Dan Colbert have shared their experiences helping the people of Kaikoura.

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Trans-Tasman business leaders to seek significant improvements to Australia/New Zealand relationship

Adrian Littlewood CEO 2013

By Adrian Littlewood, New Zealand Co-Chair of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum

In two days, more than 200 senior Australian and New Zealand business leaders and nine Government Ministers will meet in Sydney to identify ways to further improve the trans-Tasman relationship. The meeting will coincide with the Australian and New Zealand Government’s annual CER/Single Economic Market meeting.

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