Rio Paralympics: Rollers now the focus for Joondalup SBL coach Ben Ettridge

Australia coach Ben Ettridge addresses his players. Picture: Serene Maisey @ www.sephotography.com.au
Australia coach Ben Ettridge addresses his players. Picture: Serene Maisey @ www.sephotography.com.au

AUSTRALIA’S wheelchair basketballers have a target on their backs heading into the Paralympic Games.

And that’s how they like it, according to coach Ben Ettridge, who also mentors local team the Joondalup Wolves in the State Basketball League.

Ettridge boarded a flight en route to Rio de Janeiro for the Games just two hours after the Wolves’ SBL grand final loss to Cockburn on Saturday night.

It is not a stretch to say he is one of WA’s busiest elite coaches.

And he sets high standards for his teams too; anything less than a championship is inadequate.

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The Rollers head into the 2016 Games hankering for gold after the disappointment of finishing with silver to Canada in London.

A world championship win in 2014 went someway to abating the sting of that loss, but redemption would have them again holding the title of world and Paralympic champions.

It was a double achievment they held until their loss in London, after taking gold at the Beijing Games and winning the 2010 world championship in an incredible undefeated tournament.

As current world champions, Ettridge welcomed the pressure of expectation upon his side in Rio.

“These guys haven’t finished outside the top two since 2000 so the expectation is always there and that’s what we thrive in,” he said.

“We want to go one better than what we did (in London), however we’re going in as world champions, which is something that I guess sets you up for failure.

“But also, we relish having that target on our backs, it makes us rise to the occasion.”

The team will feature, for a fourth time, Alexander Heights athlete Shaun Norris, who is considered one of, if not the best, players in the world.

Norris did not mask his disappointment with winning silver when he spoke to the Weekender after the London Games.

The 31-year-old has won two silver and a gold in Paralympic competition.

Australian Paralympic team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin praised Norris on his fourth Games appearance.

“As part of a medal winning team for three consecutive Games, Shaun has shown he has what it takes to take the Rollers to the podium, and I look forward to watching as the team competes in Rio,” she said.

The Rollers face Netherlands in their first game tomorrow in the early hours of the morning, WA time.