BASKETBALL: The country's best wheelchair basketball athletes have rolled onto Sunshine Coast courts in a bid to test their merit ahead of major international clashes.
A mass gathering of 20 teams, including almost 140 players, entered Caloundra Indoor Stadium yesterday for the tough three-day Suncoast Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.
Among a raft of national league teams and talent is the women's national wheelchair basketball team, the Australian Gliders.
Gliders player Amber Merritt said the tournament would prove crucial in preparations for the World Wheelchair Basketball Championships as well as the upcoming Osaka Cup in Japan.
She said a team for the February contest in Japan would be selected following this weekend's Spinners tournament.
"It's great that we can come here early and have the training camp and then go in to some games against some really tough competition,” she said.
"We've got some of the best players in the world competing at this tournament so it's good to come up against them and really challenge ourselves.”
She said the Gliders would be split into two teams with the Spinners tournament particularly beneficial towards building game experience.
"As a team we also want to better ourselves and really work on hard, aggressive defence that we need to get back up to the international level,” she said.
"It's also an opportunity for all of us to come back together again because unfortunately Australia is a very vast country and a lot of us live in different areas of Australia so it's very hard at times for us to come together and compete.”
Although the Gliders are an international force, Merritt believed her outfit would need to bring the intensity with the tournament dishing up plenty of tough challenges.
"Every selection camp and every tournament that we play and whatever that it may be we just go in with the same intensity and treat it like we do any other time,” she said.
"It's a really great tournament that has a lot of national and international players come across and there's so many different levels of expertise within the tournament, it's really a challenge.
"It's not like you're going to come in and roll over a team and smash them. It is quite a challenging tournament for everyone at every level.
"There's a lot of quite tight competition so that'll be good.”
Merritt has been with the Gliders for almost 10 years, and looked to stake her claim at selection once again ahead of what is a big year on the international scene.
The Suncoast Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Tournament will run from 8am to 4pm today with finals held in premier, A-grade and B-grade levels tomorrow from 8.30am.
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