All Systems Go for Wheelchair Basketball in 2024 

Old rivalries and new faces are set to take centre stage when the National Wheelchair Basketball League and the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League return in June 2024. Under the guidance of Wheelchair Basketball Australia, the new look NWBL will feature seven men’s teams while in the WNWBL, there will be four women’s teams. 

Round 1 of the NWBL tips off on June 15 with Adelaide Thunder hosting Red Dust Heelers, the first time the two sides have been in the national league since 2019. The Perth Wheelcats will host the Southern Districts Spartans and feathers will fly as a new intrastate rivalry is born when the Wollongong Roller Hawks play the Manly Wheel Eagles. The Darwin Salties have the bye in Round 1. 

Each matchup will involve three games per weekend, with games to be played Saturday morning, Saturday evening and Sunday morning. By season’s end each team will have played every team three times, for a total of 18 games in the men’s and 9 games in the women’s.  On the women’s side, Round 1 sees the Perth Wheelcats host the Queensland Comets while the Sydney Blues host crosstown rivals, the Sydney Uni Flames. Round 2 sees Sydney Uni host Perth while Queensland host the Blues. Round three will see all four teams descend on Sydney in a cluster round ahead of the Finals for both men and women at Shellharbour City Stadium on August 10th and 11th. 

2024 is the first time since 2019 there has been a proper home and away season, with clubs eager to play in front of their home fans on a regular basis. Wollongong Roller Hawks coach Brendan Dowler sees a league that is shaping up to be incredibly strong. “Most of the Australian representative players are playing and there is word of overseas players also boosting some teams. There hasn’t been this much excitement in the build up to season for a long time,” says Dowler. 

The introduction of Manly sees the long-awaited return of a Sydney based team to the men’s national league. “One thing we are not lacking is player enthusiasm and willingness to train and work hard. We have quite a number of players new to national representation, who have also not played together before,” says Manly Wheel Eagles Team Manager Elisa Spano. “We know we have a hard task ahead in our inaugural year, but we welcome the challenge.” 

The Darwin Salties’ first home game isn’t until Round 3 but CJ McCarthy-Grogan is keen to play in front of a packed house similar to when the Salties hosted the NWBL Finals in 2022. “This is a team for the community, and we cannot wait to showcase the sport on the highest level back in Darwin again. It means everything to Tom & I, because we knew how hard it was for us as kids and the obstacles, we had to overcome in order to play at the highest level in Australia when most players had their own NWBL team in their own city,” says McCarthy-Grogan. 

While most teams are looking forward to playing at home, the Red Dust Heelers will be the wanderers of the NWBL, basing themselves in Victoria with home rounds spread across three different locations; Shepparton, Geelong and Thornberry. The Heelers will be coached by Australian Rollers coach Brad Ness. “I think Red Dust being based out of Melbourne will be great due to creating opportunities for some of the younger players who haven’t experienced the NWBL before,” says Ness. 

“We can’t wait to be back playing competitive wheelchair basketball as well as being back out in communities around Australia spreading the Heelers message. The league is very strong this year which will make for some cracking weekends of basketball.” 

Four teams will compete in the WNWBL, with seven-time Paralympian (five times in wheelchair basketball) Liesl Tesch suiting up for the Sydney Uni Flames. 

“I’m thrilled to be back on the court for the highest level of quality wheelchair basketball in Australia,” says Tesch. “It’s so important we are able to showcase the best wheelchair basketball players in Sydney on the Sydney Uni Flames home court alongside our fans and supporters.”