Slam Down Under
On the 18th -19th September 2015 the New Zealand men’s team competed in the Slam Down Under Tournament held in Wollongong, Sydney. Unfortunately, there was a shortage of teams in the A division due to Australian players appearing in the 2015 Paralympic qualifiers.
With three teams competing in A division, the Kiwis played in a double round robin against the Rollerhawks and the Sydney Kings.
New Zealand travelled with a developing team. This gave players at a senior level of competition more international exposure, gave insight on what high intensity games are like and what needs to be done individually to compete, improve and become a better player mentally and physically at a high level.
The players knew they were up for some hard intense games and believed they should make the final against the Rollerhawks. To achieve this they had to play at their own speed and run the plays as they had trained.
At times, especially under a full court press, they played too fast and were unable to control the tempo. This made it hard for them to run the plays and drills. When they did take control of the tempo and played to their speed the plays and drills were unbeatable and effortless.
In the semi-finals New Zealand met the Sydney Kings, and got off to a great start to lead by 14 at half time. Maybe it was nerves or tiredness but they seemed to lack discipline in the third quarter, bringing the score closer and closer.
With the New Zealand team leading into the fourth quarter by five points it made this an intense game where concentration had to be at its best. They managed to win by two points, putting them in the final against the Rollerhawks.
Going up against the undisputed champions of the Slam Down Under tournament they knew they were in for a hard game. They finished in second place but were proud of their efforts. Sheldon Larsen was named in the Tournament team.
With this tournament over there were new goals to achieve as a team and as individuals. Playing at this level has made many of the players want more, and to go back next year and take gold in the final!