13 July, 2021
Woodford teen chases Paralympics dreams
THE sky’s the limit for Woodford-based teen Mitch Duncan who has his sights set on gaining a place at a 2025 World Cup campaign and the 2032 Paralympics.
The Tullawong (Caboolture) High School grade 11 student has scaled new heights in his wheelchair basketball pursuits this year, having gained selection at state and national level.
Firstly, Mitch competed in A Grade and Premier Grade in the Queensland Wheelchair Basketball Championships, also known as the Classics, at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Secondly, Mitch made an impression as part of the Emerging Australian Under-23 squad at a four-day camp at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra.
It was two days before the Classics that Mitch received the invitation for the AIS camp, meaning he had to try not to let it affect his focus during the Classics.
At the Classics, Mitch represented the Suncoast Spinners in A Grade and came off the bench for the Australian U23s against the Australian Gliders in Premier Grade.
The Spinners acquitted themselves well but missed the semi-finals, as the balance of the team appeared to be lacking while there were many new players.
Making the most of his chance for the Australian U23s, Mitch did what was expected of him and didn’t look out of place in a tight win against the Gliders.
“While it was disappointing not to play in the semis, it was great to play a tournament again and catch up with the wheelchair basketball community,” Mitch said.
“Playing with the Australian U23s was an awesome experience.”
Mitch’s time with the Australian U23s reached another level at the AIS camp as the team played eight games, while it was a rare occasion that Mitch was away from both of his parents.
Mitch and his teammates had a tight 3-2 series loss to an Australian women’s team and a 3-0 series clean-sweep against an Australian U25 women’s team called the Devils.
Mitch’s moment of glory came in one of the matches against the Devils when he scored the winning goal just before the final siren sounded, when the match appeared destined to end in a draw.
Pushing for selection in the U23 Wheelchair Basketball World Cup in 2025 is now a major goal for Mitch, while the 2032 Paralympics is another ambition.
Mitch, who has Cerebral Palsy Diplegia, played cricket and soccer at primary school before seeing wheelchair basketball for the first time at the age of 13.
He started playing just two weeks later, and has not looked back.
Mitch has been with the University of the Sunshine Coast-based Suncoast Spinners for about four years. He is a development player with the Queensland Spinning Bullets at Nissan Arena, which is home to the Brisbane Bullets basketball and Queensland Firebirds netball teams.
With support of the Spinners, Mitch has been leading “Come and Try” wheelchair basketball sessions at Morayfield, Kingaroy and Murgon.
In wheelchair basketball, all players are classified with a number ranging from one to 4.5; the lower the number equates to less body function. The team total of the players on court must not exceed 16 at any time during a match, while the limit in international competitions is 14.
These limits ensure a fair and balanced mix of abilities across the team.
Classified as a one, Mitch plays as a small forward. His role is to defend and to help his team-mates score, and also score himself if possible.
With wheelchair basketball not having a traditional season comprising of club fixtures in age or ability, the players train together and then form teams to stage a match which is used as a selection event for tournaments.
Mitch earned selection in the Sporting Wheelies Junior Development Camps after playing A Grade in the Classics in 2018 and 2019, but last year’s camp was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Mitch also earned selection in the U23 national titles, called the Kevin Coombs Cup. He represented Queensland South as the 2019 titles were staged in Townsville, and he relished the opportunity to compete with and against the best U23 talent in the country.
Mitch was only 14 at the time but he did more than what could have been expected of him, while many of his teammates excelled themselves as Queensland South earned the silver medal.
The Tullawong High School student was also selected for the 2020 and 2021 Kevin Coombs Cup tournaments, but COVID-19 forced both to be cancelled.