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Wheelchair rugby squad rolls over competition in debut

Ella Sabljak
Bull Sharks rugby star Ella Sabljak

by Grace Knight 

Bond University Rugby has made an impressive debut in the Wheelchair Rugby Australia National League, securing third place on the ladder at their first tournament in Melbourne last weekend.

The 2023 Wheelchair Rugby Australia League consists of three rounds: the Melbourne Invitational, the Brisbane Bash, and the Sydney Slam. 

The Bond University team have been training together since January and are feeling confident as they head into the second round.

For Bond player and Gold Coast local Ella Sabljak, it is not only her first year as a Bull Shark but also her first full season in the sport of wheelchair rugby. 

Prior to taking up the sport, Sabljak was known for her exceptional skills on the basketball court with career highlights of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and captaining Australia’s U25s team to a World Championship silver medal. 

Following the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in 2022, where Sabljak competed in basketball, she made the transition to rugby as a new and exciting challenge in her athletic career. 

“My journey in wheelchair rugby began in 2022 when I was thrown into the Canberra team at the national championships in order to make up numbers,” Sabljak said. 

“So while this is my first full season in rugby, I’m really enjoying the change of scenery, the challenge it’s bringing me, and the friendships that I’ve already formed. I’m really excited to see where my rugby takes me.” 

Sabljak is no doubt someone who is driven by challenge and more than capable of achieving whatever she sets her mind to – and she’s already set herself some big goals for 2023. 

“Myself and the team’s immediate goal is to qualify for the Australian squad,” she said. 

“From there, my biggest personal goal is definitely to represent Australia at the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games.” 

The Bond University team will compete at a Paralympic Games qualification tournament in Tokyo in June. 

Should the team qualify, individual players will later be selected to formulate The Australian Steelers 2024 Olympic Wheelchair Rugby team. 

Bond’s next round in the National League takes place from March 31 to April 2 at the Brisbane Nissan Arena.

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