Ryley Batt is one of the greatest wheelchair rugby players the world has ever seen.
For a long time - 12 years, in fact - Ryley had avoided using a wheelchair. All he wanted was to be one of the boys, so he used a skateboard to get around instead. And were it not for a timely visit by two-time Paralympian Brad Dubberley to Ryley’s school in Port Macquarie, NSW, he may still be rolling around on four wheels.
Just three years after meeting Brad, Ryley made his Paralympic debut as the youngest ever wheelchair rugby player to compete at the Paralympic Games. He reached the Paralympic podium for the first time four years later at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, and led the Australian wheelchair rugby team, the Steelers, to their first Paralympic gold medal in 2012. Incredibly, in the gold medal match alone, Ryley scored 37 of the Steelers’ 66 goals against the Canadian team.
After helping win the Steelers’ first world title in 2014, Ryley made history as a member of the first wheelchair rugby team to win consecutive Paralympic gold medals and a World Championship title in a four-year period, defeating the USA 59-58 in a double-overtime thriller at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
But all good things must come to an end, and in 2018, it was the Steelers’ six-year reign at major tournaments. Despite an unbeaten run to the gold medal match and a home-court advantage, they made an uncharacteristic and decisive error with 90 seconds to play to fall to Japan 62-61 at the 2018 International Wheelchair Rugby Federation Wheelchair Rugby World Championship.
At the time, Ryley had only just taken over the role of captain from four-time Paralympian Ryan Scott, and had a hard time coming to terms with the loss. But he is now more determined than ever and went to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as co-captain of the entire Australian Paralympic Team, no less.