Wheel Blacks embrace Paralympics return despite loss

Source: 1News

The Wheel Blacks are taking plenty of positives from their opening match at the Paralympics, despite a heavy loss to the USA.

New Zealand’s wheelchair rugby team went down to the American powerhouse 63-35 despite an impressive 23-try effort by Barney Koneferenisi – the top scorer in the match.

Koneferenisi praised his teammates for the stat line.

“In order for me to score the tries the teammates got to set it up, so it's not an individual thing,” he said.

“If I didn't have good screens, good teammates, then all these other avenues wouldn't have opened up.”

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 25:  Barney Koneferenisi of New Zealand battles for the ball with Kory Puderbaugh and Charles Aoki of United States of America during the Group B Wheelchair Rugby match between Team New Zealand, also know as the Wheel Blacks and Team United States on day 1 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Yoyogi National Stadium on August 25, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images for New Zealand Paralympic Committee)

It was the Wheel Blacks’ first appearance at the Paralympics since 2008, having missed both the London and Rio Games previously.

As such, the match was special for many involved, regardless of the scoreline.

“As soon as the national anthem came on, switched on. We did the haka, everything else switched on,” Koneferenisi said.

“We went on the court, the number one mission was no matter what the score was go out do your job, if you've done that we're happy.”

The Wheel Blacks play Great Britain on Thursday at 11pm NZT.