Nazim Erdem, Australia’s most capped representative in wheelchair rugby, has decided to call full-time on his glittering international career.
An instrumental part of the Australian Steelers for almost two decades, the 0.5 classified player after announcing his retirement after 312 international appearances.
Reflecting on his career, highlighted by two Paralympic gold medals and a World Championship medal, Erdem said he was proud to be part of what has been an incredible transformation of the sport since his debut in 1998.
“I’ve learnt about working in a team environment and having to lean on each other – it takes commitment and sacrifice,” Erdem said.
“My experience has turned me into a leader and a mentor, and I grew to motivate the other players.
“It was just timing, the timing is right. There are a lot of new guys on the team and I wanted to give them a chance to develop.”
Head Coach of the Australian Steelers Brad Dubberley was a teammate of Erdem, playing together at several international events, including the 2000 and 2004 Paralympic Games. He then saw Erdem’s progression to become one of the world’s premier 0.5 players.
“As a teammate and athlete, and now as his coach I’ve seen him grow over the years into a big player,” he said.
Erdem was an integral member of Steelers’ campaign that yielded back-to-back Paralympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016 after their breaking their hoodoo at World Championship level by winning gold in 2014.
But somewhat surprisingly, it is the silver medal won by the Steelers at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games that he recalls as one of his most cherished memories.
“To play in front of the Australian home crowd was really something special,” he said.
Dubberley will remember Erdem as a valuable player who was quietly confident.
“The Paralympic golds in London and Rio were big and he was always a big-time contributor,” he said.
“He’s a part of our family and we want him to continue to play a role with us because he has a lot of experience and things to share.”
Erdem will now commit more time to his family and his growing role at the Australian Quadriplegic Association. He still sees wheelchair rugby as a big part of his life and will continue to play and mentor at lower levels of the game. He also hopes to have the opportunity to mentor Steelers players ahead of future Paralympic Games.
“It’s a big commitment but it pays off when you have the continued success of the team.”
By Patrisha Domingo