Australia’s wheelchair rugby team has missed out on a Paralympic medal for the first time since 2004 following a 60-52 loss in their bronze medal match to Japan.
The Steelers’ brilliant reign as the undisputed best team in the world ended abruptly on Sunday following the team’s fourth loss from five starts in Tokyo.
Without any proper games in the past 18 months, competing with far more well-oiled sides was always going to be extremely difficult.
The team won bronze at Beijing 2008 before gold medals in London and Rio but a fourth-placed finish when the team didn’t play to its potential proved tough to take.
“It’s still very raw,” said coach Brad Dubberley, who has been in charge of the team for 15 years. “We’ve had such success for such a long period of time. We know we’re such a better team than the result out there today. We have dealt with chaos and barrier after barrier for so long. Super proud.
“If you said to me a few months ago we’d finish fourth and win one game, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Captain and five-time Paralympian Ryley Batt admitted he would need some time to consider his future after scoring 27 tries in his final hit-out.
“I was a bit emotional before the game,” Batt said. “Medal or not, we represent our country and it’s something to be very proud of.
“We haven’t been together for so long. It’s really hurt our preparation. I know everyone has been affected but we’ve been really affected. We tried. It just wasn’t to be today.