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The Australian Steelers’ decade-long drought at the Canada Cup will continue after Japan defeated them 54-46 in Monday’s final to claim the gold medal.

The Steelers entered the decider at Richmond Oval in Vancouver with the odds stacked against them, having only won the prestigious biennial tournament twice – in 2014 and 2010 – in its 20-year history and never in a Paralympic year.

Their task was made monumentally harder when the most experienced Australian Steeler of all-time Ryley Batt withdrew from the final to manage the workload on his body with less than 80 days to go until the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

Batt had starred over five matches in the previous three days to guide his team to at least a silver medal and had nothing left to prove.

Without their talisman and the experience he brings with 357 international appearances, the Steelers still fought gallantly with skipper Chris Bond and rising star Brayden Foxley-Conolly taking it upon themselves to lead their team-mates.

But Japan were simply too classy. They forced five turnovers in the first quarter and then played with confidence and control to lock the Steelers out of the contest.

“Without Ryley it was always going to be tough,” Australian head coach Brad Dubberley said.

“The message was to embrace the challenge. We wanted to learn from this experience and give everyone some good time on court in a big game.

“Bondy was phenomenal, Brayden came in and played the best he has ever played and everyone else contributed as well. I was really proud of everyone today.

“We were erratic which was to be expected. Japan always bring intensity and pressure and you have to try and weather that storm. But for us to have some different line-ups out there and to try and deal with that was always going to be tough, but we settled and managed to deal with it as the game went on.”

The eight-goal victory capped an outstanding campaign for Japan, who emerged undefeated from the tournament which featured the world’s top six teams.

Having never won a Paralympic gold medal and only one World Championship (2018), they must now fancy their chances for success when the Paris 2024 wheelchair rugby tournament begins on August 29.

However, the Australians have their own reasons to be confident.

“Japan is a phenomenal team, they deserved to win this tournament. They stayed undefeated which is an achievement,” Dubberley said.

“But for us to be without Ryley in the final, to run all our line-ups, to give everyone some time and to perform really well, it’s been really pleasing and will no doubt help us when it comes to preparing for the Paralympics.”

Steelers’ selectors now have the unenviable task of finalising the squad of 12 who will represent the Australian Paralympic Team in Paris. The announcement will be made on 10 July.

In other results on the final day, Great Britain won the bronze medal with a 50-43 win over European rivals France, while the United States defeated Canada 52-43 in the decider for fifth and sixth in a disappointing result for the host nation.

2024 Canada Cup – Wheelchair Rugby

Richmond Oval, Vancouver, CAN

Final Standings

1.       Japan

2.       Australia

3.       Great Britain

4.       France

5.       United States

6.       Canada


 By Tim Mannion, Paralympics Australia.

Published 10 June, 2024.