Bernd Best Turnier 2019
It’s not very often London Wheelchair rugby club is ‘as one’. Throughout our domestic season, the club splits into two teams to compete (London Crusaders and London Storm). This allows players to develop and additional game time to hone those skills that get drilled in at training sessions. But every now and then, the club comes together as one, just like we do week in week out at practice. It amasses players that have been developing and proving their worth, sharing the court with seasoned Paralympians. It’s special, infrequent, but truly a privilege to be part of. This year, it meant travelling to Cologne for the bi-annual Bernd Best Turnier. The first time London attended this tournament was 20 years ago, so its one the club always look forward to.
After players travelled and had a restful night, the first game of the Tournament was against a strong German outfit labelling themselves as “Red Lions”. This was a mix of old, present, and new German national players. Spearheaded by coach/captain, Steven Palmer, tactics and objectives were instructed to all. With a tentative start London ran several different player combinations throughout the game. In rugby terms, this is known as ‘lineups or lines’. As the game progressed the score edged in favour of London, resulting in the first win of the weekend, 50-40. A good result but the performance wasn’t as clinical as expected.
Next stop was an evening game against team Switzerland. London last met team Switzerland at the Amsterdam tournament almost 2 years ago, losing the match, so retribution was wanted by the players who were part of that game. Within the first few minutes, London knew exactly which tactics to employ in order for Switzerland to play outside their comfort zone. By the end of the first quarter London were confident that a win was in sight. Again, after the Red lions game, players wanted to be more precise and with each lineup that took to the floor more turnovers occurred. The end result being 47-27 in favour of London. Overall, the game highlighted that with clever tactics and sticking to the roles assigned, results will come.
Saturday morning and a very early start against a team which many in the squad believed could be the strongest team of the tournament: Agivia Sharks. Their roster included 2012 Paralympian and current GB player Aaron Phipps, who the week before donned a red and black vest playing under London Crusaders at the GBWR National Championships. Alongside other noted players from the European scene, London had to be switched on from the whistle. The first quarter was a close affair with the teams going goal for goal for the first four minutes. Throughout the quarter, and in fact the entire game, goals were being scored by all London players highlighting the trust and confidence throughout the squad. By half time London lead by 3. The third quarter saw London up by 7, with Ollie Mangion playing some fantastic defence but also showing some great composure offensively. By the end of the fourth the score was 52-44. A good win but still there were improvements to be gained.
With Saturday being a three game day, next in line was The Flying Wheels who in essence, are Austria. Even at tournaments, there is time for players to develop. One of the day’s mantras was to “always be ready when called upon’. With this in mind the game started utilising the hi-lo line up of Jim Roberts, Ollie Mangion, GB captain Chris Ryan and Kylie Grimes. After the display against Agvinia Sharks earlier, Coach Palmer felt it was time to mix the starting roster to see how the Flying Wheels (and London players) would react. The lineup certainly didn’t disappoint taking an early lead 10-8 into the second quarter. London kept adding to the scoreline eventually victorious again 55-43.
Last game of the day, was against The Flying Dutchmen. A team London know well and in fact, were in the final two years ago against many of the London contingent. It was clear before the game that the entire squad were hungry from the whistle. The win would guarantee a place in tomorrow’s final so it was apparent that as a collective group, from now on, wins were the only option. From that whistle till the last, London didn’t let up. What made it that little bit more special was the latest recruit, Dave Ross aka ‘Chuck/Chicken’, had his parents on the sidelines watching on as he continued adding to the scoreline through the game, (a huge thank you from the London family for making the effort to show your support).
Heading into the final on Sunday and a rematch with Red Lions awaited. This time they offered different lineups than the first encounter but over the course of the game, with the numerous able lines that Coach Palmer had at his disposal, London were victorious. What was highlighted in this game and tournament was that even though London had taken the trophy, there is much more to come from the squad over the next few years. Bernd Best showed the potential.
The players play, and what happens on court can only happen because of the support staff behind the scenes. Without you, we are just players, but with you we are a team. Thank you.
If you would like to watch any of the games they can be found here.