There was a strong Western Australian flavour at the recent Frank Ponta Cup in Canberra as Team Brad Ness claimed bragging rights at the tournament created to honour an Australian sporting icon.
The tournament is named in memory of the man widely regarded as the founding father of Australian wheelchair basketball – the late, great Frank Ponta. Ponta competed for Australia across five Paralympics, including the first ever Paralympic Games in Rome, Italy in 1960.
According to current WAIS head coach Brad Ness, his legacy went well beyond his skills as an athlete.
"Frank was a Western Australian Paralympic legend,” he said. "He was influential in getting many people into Paralympic sport.”
Established in 2010, the Frank Ponta Cup adds additional competition to the wheelchair basketball landscape, but also helps to build strong culture within the sport.
Athletes are drafted into composite teams – each named after a former captain of the Australian national teams.
With many of Australia’s senior members currently overseas playing professionally, the Cup is also combined alongside a national training-development camp which has helped to further promote Australia’s young and emerging wheelchair basketball talent.
"The Cup started with a two day training camp at the AIS for 41 athletes from around Australia from both the men’s and women’s leagues,” Ness said.
"There was a mix of current Rollers and Gliders as well a number of emerging players on the national scene. The camp was jointly run by Rollers head coach Craig Friday and Gliders head coach David Gould.
"On the second night we hosted a Team BBQ which included a player draft, splitting the group into five teams to contest the Frank Ponta Cup.
"In total 10 players from WA attended, with all of those members either from the WAIS wheelchair basketball program or on current WAIS training agreements.”
Team Brad Ness drafted two WA talents, with training agreement athletes Ben Moncrieff and Frank Pinder both helping the team to a tournament victory.
Moncrieff earned selection for the Emerging (age-restricted) All Star Five, whilst WAIS athletes Jake Kavanagh and Andrew Dewberry were selected for the Frank Ponta Cup All Star Five.
Ness said the camp and subsequent tournament had been a hugely successful initiative for his group, and justified the hard work his athletes had been putting into their training.
"All in all, the WAIS athletes performed at a very high standard across the five days which was highlighted by six PB’s in the testing that was conducted on the morning before the Tournament started,” he said.