By Lance Jenkinson
Werribee’s Jason Lees will don the green and gold of Australia at the IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships in Sydney next month.
A two-time Paralymic gold medallist, it will be Lees’ third world championships in the Australian Steelers team.
Lees will join an 11-strong team aiming to become the first wheelchair rugby team to win a world championship on home soil.
If recent history is any guide, the Steelers will be one of the favourites to take out the title.
The Steelers are two-time defending Paralympic champions in London 2012 and Rio 2016 and reigning world champions in Odense 2014.
No team has ever had such a dominant four-year period in international wheelchair rugby.
“I’m stoked to be selected for my third world championships,” Lees said.
“What we were able to do in Denmark [at the world championships in 2014] was pretty special and to be able to do that and have a chance of doing that again at home will be an amazing experience.
“I’m really looking forward to it.”
Lees is a stalwart of the Australian Steelers team, making his debut back in 2009.
He has just returned from Darwin, where the Steelers held their final training camp before the world championships.
It is a familiar routine for Lees, as the Steelers have trained in Darwin in the lead-up to all their major tournaments since 2012.
“Training in Darwin is a superstitious thing for [Australian coach] Brad [Dubberley],” Lees said. “He’s brought us up here before big comps and it’s worked in the past and I think he wants to keep it going.
“On court, the guys were firing. We had great hit-outs and everyone is playing really well.
“I think if we can play our best come Sydney, there won’t be another team who can beat us.”
The 12-team tournament will be played at Sydney Olympic Park.
The competition will consist of two pools of six teams with Australia set to meet Japan, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark and Ireland in the qualifying rounds and Team USA, Canada, Great Britain, France, Columbia and Poland battling it out in the other pool.
The opening ceremony and first pool game will be played on Sunday.