The Manly Sea Eagles Wheelchair Basketball Team will be joining the annual Sun Run on 4 February on manual, push-powered wheelchairs. The team, backed by Wheelchair Sports NSW, are currently seeking sponsorship, which will go toward providing wheelchairs and supplies to enable people living with disabilities on the Northern Beaches to participate in the growing sport of wheelchair basketball.
The rolling squad declared, “We are trying to fundraise $5000 to support our new Manly Wheelchair Basketball Team. 100% of the funds raised will support this team as they enter their first full year in 2023, competing in the Club Challenge and Waratah League representing Manly.”
The Sun Run, held annually between Dee Why and Manly over a choice of two distances – 7km or 10km – helps raise over $70,000 each year for numerous charities across NSW.
The popular event, for all levels of ability, starts early morning in staged time-slots: 6.15am for the first teams undertaking the 10km run.
The course follows a scenic seafront route, via Curl Curl, Freshwater and Queenscliff beaches, before ending alongside the Manly Surf Life Saving Club on the southern end of South Steyne.
Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan praised the Sun Run as a welcoming event for both participants and spectators.
“Sun Run is a family-friendly event. It brings people together,” he said. “It’s open to all in our local community and visitors of all skill levels. Everyone is welcome. On the day there’s a chance to get involved as a spectator, support crew, as a donator of vital funds or to just soak up the wonderful atmosphere on our streets and beaches.”
Training at DY PCYC with coach Koen Jansens. Video: Alec Smart
Interview with coach and player Koen Jansens
Manly Observer spoke with the gold and silver medal-winning former Dutch Paralympian, Koen Jansens, coach and player with Manly Wheelchair Basketball Team, about the foundation of the Northern Beaches’ squad and its’ future in the NSW competition.
Jansens was a member of the Dutch men’s wheelchair basketball national squad, competing at four Paralympic Games from 1992 to 2004, including Barcelona, Spain (1992 – gold); Atlanta, USA (1996); Sydney, Australia (2000 – silver); and Athens, Greece (2004).
Incidentally, Jansens is married to Manly-born Australian Paralympian Donna Ritchie, who was part of the silver medal-winning Australian women’s wheelchair basketball team at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics. They have a son and a daughter.
When did Koen take over the running of the Manly Wheelchair Basketball Team?
“Wheelchair Sports actually kicked-off the initiative,” he revealed. “Lisa Edmonds and myself, we are the local wheelchair basketball ex-Paralympians, the retired Paralympians of the region.”
Lisa Edmonds, three times World Championship bronze medallist, and a silver medallist at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, represented Australia in over 100 matches between 1990 and 2002.
“The guys at Wheelchair Sports approached us from the beginning,” Koen continued, “right from the first session, to see if we were able to help out, and that’s pretty much what we’ve done.
“So, every Wednesday afternoon we’re here [at the DY PCYC], trying to get the kids up to speed.
“A couple of the members, including myself, played with the Newcastle Falcons initially, because there were no teams here on the Northern Beaches. But for the majority of the team members it’s their first go at playing wheelchair basketball.”
The Northern Beaches team plan to compete in the 2023 season of Basketball NSW’s Waratah League, a semi-professional basketball league in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, which in 2022 included wheelchair basketball for the first time.
2022’s season, throughout July and August, saw eight teams battle it out for the inaugural trophy, ultimately won by the Hills Hornets from Baulkham Hills.
The 2022 wheelchair teams included: Blacktown Storm, Canberra Gunners, Central Coast Crusaders, Hills Hornets, Illawarra Hawks, Macarthur Heat, Newcastle Falcons and Sutherland Sharks.
How are the wheelchair basketball leagues graded, in regards to ages, gender or abilities?
“Three different levels: club championships, that’s the lowest level, then the Waratah League is the equivalent of rep basketball, and then a national competition,” Koen explained. “We don’t have the numbers to be too picky in regards to ages, sex and abilities, so the Manly team is pretty much a mixed bunch.
“We’ve got a good mix of some experienced players, and some young kids so we thought it was the right time to give the Waratah League a go.”
When does the 2023 season start?
“They haven’t announced the draw as yet, but I think it’s kind of mid-way through the year,” he said. “Leading into that we’ll have some other comps in Sydney that we’ll take part in, like club championships.
“We’ve already had our first tournament, the Slam Down Under, which was a big tournament down Nowra way where international teams competed.”
The Slam Down Under took place at Shoalhaven Indoor Sports Centre during the Wheelchair Basketball Illawarra Festival over the weekend of 29-30 October 2022. The contest was divided between Competitive and Development tournaments, Manly Sea Eagles competing in the latter, which was established for new and developing teams.
“That was our first competition as the Wheel Eagles, or the Sea Eagles,” Koen revealed. “It was great fun! We played, I think, eight or nine games over the weekend, which is a lot! They were the first competitive games for a lot of the kids. It was great to see them improve. They did pretty well.”
With the actual format of the game, does wheelchair basketball use the same size ball and court as traditional basketball?
“The only difference between the able-bodied game and the wheelchair game is the double dribble rule,” Koen explained. “That’s the only difference. Everything else is identical. You can push the chair twice, like two pushes of the wheel, and then you have to dribble once but you can continue doing that down the court, so there’s no travel penalty for that.”
For the unfamiliar, ‘travel’ in able-bodied basketball, is, according to internationally-agreed rules, a moving violation when a player has taken more than two steps without the ball being ‘dribbled’ (bounced by hand on the court surface). The game is halted and a throw-in from the sideline is awarded the opposing team.
Will you be competing with the Manly team in the Waratah League, or just coaching?
“I think this year I’ll probably have to compete for a little bit longer,” Koen considered. “I’m not all that keen any more to compete, because my shoulders are pretty wrecked. But yeah, I’ll probably keep playing a little bit longer. However, we need some more players!”
Wheelchair Basketball rules
Wheelchair Sports NSW fundraising for the Sun Run
Sun Run online entry form
Manly Sea Eagles Wheelchair Basketball Team