From the Grandstand by Col Hennessy


Yes, that’s right a game called Murderball. It’s part of the Paralympics which start this week and by all accounts its one hell of a game. Some lady readers of this column thought it was another Agatha Christie novel but no, I will explain.

Murderball became the accepted name for what was originally wheelchair rugby, but it became so combative and aggressive the name change came about to reflect the manner in which it is played and a movie was made about it, centered on some epic finals between the US and Australia (which we won by the way).

Back to the Paralympics generally and readers need to know how the name came about. Like many others I always thought it had something to do with hosting a lot of games for paraplegics, but it isn’t. Far from it, the para is short for parallel which is the goal of these games. They always run parallel to the normal Olympics every four years and cover as many sports as they can. This year there are 22 different sports, and we are contesting 18 of them. Two new sports are included namely badminton and martial arts.

The Games themselves started in Rome in 1960 although after WW2 there were some games along the lines of the Invictus games to provide some goals for injured and handicapped soldiers. There are other avenues available as well including the special Olympics which is for those who are intellectually impaired and the Deaflympics.

This year we are sending a team of 170 and this number has increased every year. What surprised me after a bit of research is that there are a couple who are attending their seventh games. Ages range from 15 to 60.

Locals may have seen clips on the sports section of the local TV news when they interview the co-captain of our team who comes from Port Macquarie. He is a big-bearded guy with a powerful voice and presence. He’d have me beat before the game started. His name in Ryley Batt and he is off to his fifth games (his first was as a 15-year -old).

His background is interesting. He was born without legs and played at skateparks with mates until introduced to a wheelchair by his coach. He fell in love with the sport and the rest is history. He believes that like the Games just concluded these games will give us so much positivity in these gloomy days.

Many in the grandstand are a bit skeptical about the ‘worth’ of such medals. In traditional games you are competing against thousands of other athletes just to make the squad but Paralympians only number hundreds. I can understand the argument but if you were to look at the skill level on display or have a look at the training regime they undergo, you might change your mind.

Anyway, do yourself a favour and have a look at a game of Murderball. Fist game for the Aussies is today (Wednesday) mid-afternoon.