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Wheelchair Rugby: ‘Murderball’ Explained

With just 96 days to go until the London 2012 Paralympics, it’s time to start taking a look at how some of the sports that are unique to a Paralympic Games are played. The first in this series is Wheelchair Rugby (Quad Rugby in the USA) also colloquially referred to in the biz as ‘Murderball’ because of the rough and vigorous nature of the game where injuries like broken digits are not uncommon.

The sport was also made famous with a documentary named Murderball made about the sport.

The current world number one team (as at 11 November, 2011) in the sport of Wheelchair Rugby is the United States of America, who are also the reigning Paralympic and world champions looking to defend their title and ranking in just a matter of months in London. They are closely followed  by Australia in second place on the list and Japan in third, with Sweden and Canada rounding out the top 5 sides in the world.

ELIGIBILITY:

Players must have a functional impairment of both the arms and legs to form a part of a team in the sport. The most common cohort in the game are those with spinal cord injuries, but people with multiple amputations and neurological disabilities like Cerebral Palsy also qualify to play.

Players are given a classification based on functional ability between 0.5 and 3.5 with the former being the higher end of physical impairment and 3.5 being the highest level of physical ability.

THE TEAM:

There can be up to 12 players in a team with 4 players on the court at any one time. These 4 players must have a combined classification total of no more than 8 points at any time.

THE PLAYING FIELD:

Murderball is played indoors on a basketball court. Instead of the basketball key area an 8 metre wide and 1.75 metre deep forms a goal area with cones marking the dimensions. The end line is the goal line.

THE BALL:

The sport is played with a regulation size volleyball that must be 280 grams and white in colour.

THE RULES OF THE GAME:

Play starts in the back court of the player whose team is in possession of the ball. The player in possession of the ball must advance the ball into their opposition’s half within 12 seconds.

Players must pass or bounce the ball every 10 seconds in any manner necessary.

A team has a total of 40 seconds to score a point or must give up possession of the ball and the attacking team cannot be in the key area with the ball for more than 10 seconds without scoring.

The defensive team is not permitted to have any more than 3 players in the key defending their line at any one time.

In defending their line, the team can attack the player in any manner aside from attacking a player from behind or physically interfering with another person.

Defensive fouls are remedied with a 1 minute penalty and offensive fouls lead to a loss of possession.

The clock is stopped and possession reversed if the ball goes out of bounds.

When the player in possession of the ball has two wheels over the end line a goal has been scored.

A Sporting Obituary of Sorts

This morning Australians awoke to the news that a true Australian sporting champion would be leaving the sport in which he reached its pinnacle. Casey Stoner, the 26 year old, two-time world MotoGP champion (2007, 2011) amazed the sporting world when he announced his retirement on Thursday afternoon European time, ahead of the French Grand Prix this weekend.

Both family reasons and the way the MotoGP set-up is heading were cited by Stoner as reasons for his impending retirement at the end of the 2012 season as was a lack of enthusiasm when he fronted the press overnight to explain the move.

It seems a strange move for someone who is again on top of his sport in another year, after finishing 1st in the last MotoGP race which turned out to be, in the latter stages a very competitive race, but the current world champion ultimately prevailed and at worst is looking a good chance to defend the championship he won last year for the first time since 2007 when he won his first.

The Australian Stoner follows in the footsteps, big ones, of 5-time 500cc world champion not to mention his idol, Mick Doohan who won all five of his championship titles consecutively between 1994 and 1998 and would’ve been a good chance to equal the tally of championships that Doohan acquired over his time in the sport.

From now until the end of the season rumours will now abound as to the next move that Casey Stoner will make after his retirement from motorcycles. He might choose to take a year, or more off to evaluate his options and spend time with his wife and their new baby born in February this year before contemplating a possible return to some form of motorsport, whether it be on two or four wheels or behind the scenes on the team or corporate side of things.

If Stoner testing a V8 Supercar in the MotoGP off-season provides any indication, then the 26 year old may well decide to return to Australia full-time and embark on a four wheel career which, even though completely different, for a person of the stature of Casey Stoner, would attract a lucrative salary up there with the long-time champions of the sport like Craig Lowndes.

In the meantime, all eyes will be on Stoner and whether, with the weight off his shoulders, he can power through to the end of the season and win his third MotoGP title and all indications are, despite his lack of confidence in himself and the authorities of the sport, that he will be able to give his title defense a real good shake.

You will be missed in the sport Casey and by lovers of motorsport. It has been and will continue to be a pleasure to watch the way you race, at least until the end of the season.

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