The Australian Steelers have beaten the United States in a thrilling final to be crowned world champions of wheelchair rugby. The cat-and-mouse showpiece match in Denmark ended 58-55 in Australia’s favour, providing some redemption after missing out to Japan by a single point at the last world championships in Sydney four years ago.
“We were written off three months ago and now we are the best wheelchair rugby team in the world,” Australia’s captain Chris Bond said. “We never got a good lead but we just fought inch by inch. We held our nerve. We knew we just had to hold on, grit our teeth and keep pushing.”
Coach Brad Dubberley described Sunday’s victory as “immensely satisfying” after his team missed out on a medal at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo last year.
“It’s been a hard slog for our whole team over the past couple of years,” he said. “To have built this team and be successful in a tournament like this when so many teams could have won it, it is absolutely huge.”
The team’s most-capped player Ryley Batt – named the tournament’s most valuable player – was delighted to add to his 2014 world championship gold and heal the hurt of 2018.
“I’ve been a world champion before, but to be honest, this one feels more like a fairytale,” he said. “Losing on home soil in 2018 really hurt. It really, really hurt. But to come back to win this world championship is a testament to our character.”
Japan beat Denmark 61-57 to take the bronze medal.