The Australian Rollers have finished second at the 2018
World Challenge Cup, a tournament in Japan that continued their work towards
the IWBF World Championships in August.
Competing against Japan, Canada and Germany, the Rollers lost
out to the hosts in the final but more importantly, continued to develop
on-court chemistry, strategies and different combinations.
The tournament provided all four countries with some
competitive hit-outs against quality opposition ahead of the IWBF World Champs,
held in Germany from August 16-26, where the Rollers will be aiming to claim a
three-peat after winning gold in 2010 and 2014.
In their first game of the World Challenge Cup, the
Rollers faced Canada and after a defensive opening term, they found themselves
trailing by five points at half-time.
"We started well at the defensive end but in the
second quarter, Canada found some breakdowns in our half-court D while poor
conversion from the floor allowed them to separate from us," said Rollers
head coach Craig Friday.
The second half was a different story though as Australia
increased their pressure on the ball and forced the Canadians into some bad
On the counter-attack, the Rollers found their rhythm
through Shaun Norris (20 points, 12 assists) who hit consecutive three-pointers
which gave the Aussies the lead and from there, they never looked back,
finishing the game with a 52-18 second half as they ran out 29-point victors.
Every Roller hit the court, paced by Tom O'Neill-Thorne
(22 points, three steals), Bill Latham (12 points, nine rebounds) and Tristan
Knowles (nine points, one block).
The following day, the Rollers faced a double-header
against Japan and Germany to book a spot in the final but they hit a bump with
a 44-52 defeat to the hosts in the first contest.
Australia led by two points at the last change but could
not hold off a fourth-quarter charge from Japan and scored just six points in
the final frame despite the best efforts of Kim Robins (eight points), Norris
(five points, four assists) and Latham (four points, nine rebounds, four
"It was a very disappointing display, a poor
effort," said Friday.
"We were out-pushed, could not find any rhythm and
seemed to play behind all game."
On a positive note, the Rollers had the chance for
immediate redemption against Germany later that day and they responded well,
succeeding 69-51 after jumping out to a 13-point lead at quarter-time.
They tallied 26 assists on their 29 field goals in a
strong team display with O'Neill-Thorne (12 points, six assists), Michael
Auprince (ten points, six rebounds), Latham (nine points, nine boards) Knowles
(nine points, six assists) and Brett Stibners (seven points, six dimes) all
"This was a great response from the Rollers,"
"We started with great intensity and controlled the
game with some solid defence while we were able to maintain the lead in the
second half with a couple of different line-ups and a good spread of
With two wins from their three group games, that set up a
re-match in the final against Japan and after finding themselves down four at
quarter-time, the Rollers fought back to take a narrow two-point lead at
They suffered a similar fate to their first meeting
though, unable to match Japan's intensity down the stretch and eventually the
home side pulled away in front of a loud crowd to win 65-56.
"We worked hard to be in the game but in the end it
was another disappointing result," said Friday.
"A combination change saw us lose control late in
the third and some fundamental errors cost us opportunities but a great
learning opportunity has been presented."
Once again, O'Neill-Thorne impressed with a double-double
of 15 points and ten assists while Latham added 15 points, six rebounds and
four steals and Norris recorded eight points and four assists.
A majority of the Rollers' team will now return home to
complete their NWBL campaigns with the IWBF World Championships just over two