THE SPORT better known as Murderball is about to make a killer move for Australian female athletes on the game's biggest stage - the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
This is definitely a play worth watching.
Australia's wheelchair rugby team are set to attack with librarian-by-day Shae Graham as the first female to pull on green-and-gold for the Steelers in the Paralympics, starting later this month.
For all the talk of female development in other national sporting codes, the Steelers are about to show how it is done.
This comes as close to home, Ballarat Highlands Bowls Division this week made clear it was hoping to shake-up Tuesday pennant gender rules in a bid to have more women skip. The region's governing lawn bowls body has plans to build female confidence to take on the key role.
Greater Western Victoria Rebels appointed Adelaide Crows AFLW premiership player and former Gold Coast Sun Sally Riley as an assistant coach for the football talent program.
Meanwhile, at the game's highest levels one of the nation's most decorated coaches Lisa Alexander has called on the AFL to introduce a gender quota system on coaching with many female coaches just needing a "bloody start", as she told metropolitan radio.
The former Australian Diamonds coach, now based in Avoca, was knocked back without an interview for the North Melbourne AFL head coach job last year.
For Steelers coach Brad Dubberley, who grew up in Ballarat, Graham's selection was not about being a gender statement.
"I don't think it makes any difference whether you;re a male or female," Dubberley told Australian Paralympic Team's YouTube channel. "She makes the team off her own merits for how she performs and plays."
Dubberley hoped Graham in action would encourage more females to play.
MORE PRESS BOX
The story goes Graham had ignored para-sport for a decade after the car accident that put her in a wheelchair - until losing a bet with her brother and giving murderball a go.
Graham made her international debut in a four-nations tournament in the United States in 2019 and firmly stamped herself for Paralympic potential.
Buninyong's Greg Smith, a paralympic gold medallist in athletics and wheelchair rugby, said it was not unusual for other nations to select females for Murderball. He said Canada and Great Britain were best known for this and it was exciting for Australia to join the mix.
Wheelchair rugby teams have capped points on player classification, made on range of movement. Females have a half-point reduction, in a bid to entice more into the physically and mentally gruelling sport.
Smith is the Steelers strength and conditioning coach.
Shae works incredibly hard and pushes herself as hard as any of them. She has the right mental attitude and fortitude.- Greg Smith, Ballarat Paralympian and Steelers strength and conditioning coach
"Shae works incredibly hard and pushes herself as hard as any of them," Smith told Press Box. "She has the right mental attitude and fortitude.
"This is a game of speed, agility, strength and tactics...it's a real mix. It's an endurance game while at the same time there are a lot of stop-stars. But it's also high intensity and loud - especially when those wheels crash."
Time to watch and learn. The Steelers are shifting the gender equality talk to true merit - and that is exciting.
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