HUGHESDALE resident and wheelchair rugby player Bryce Alman is preparing his physical fitness for one last training camp before he travels with his team to Beijing.

The Australian Steelers team member will play for gold at the 2008 Paralympic Games in a fast-moving sport also known as ‘murderball’.

Made famous by the movie Murderball, wheelchair rugby has also been described as Mad Max in wheelchairs.

Alman and the other 10 members of his team have just returned from Canada after playing the world’s top wheelchair rugby teams.

“We finished fifth but we only lost one game. Hopefully we’ll win one more game in Beijing,” he said.

That would put the teams among the top four in the world, he said.

Alman said the Steelers ranked second in the world, while the US ranked number one.

Wheelchair rugby is a very physical game but it is different to rugby, he said.

“There is no contact with the person, but there is full wheelchair contact and you can get knocked out easily.

“We don’t pass the ball backwards, but pass it forwards, but it’s physical and a highly competitive game. Like rugby it’s fast-moving, with possession switching back and forth between the teams while play continues.”

Alman said he trained six days a week at the Victorian Institute of Sport.

He said he was looking forward to taking part in the 2008 paralympics.

Alman became a quadriplegic after he broke his neck surfing with friends at Phillip Island in 1996 when he was an apprentice engineer.

He spent five months in hospital undergoing rehabilitation.

But always the sporting type, he soon discovered wheelchair rugby just a year after his accident, and hasn’t looked back.

In 1999 he represented Australia for the first time at the World Wheelchair Games in Christchurch, then at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games when his team qualified for the wheelchair rugby final.

He said winning the silver medal was a great achievement.

In 2004, he represented Australia at his second Paralympic Games in Athens where the team finished fifth.

Later that year, he became the face of the ‘Save your neck this Summer’ campaign that was developed in an effort to prevent water-related spinal injuries.

At 31, Alman is focused on getting to Beijing and reaching his second paralympic wheelchair rugby final. This time he hopes to leave the stadium with a gold medal.

Australian Paralympic Committee chief executive Darren Peters, in naming the 11 athletes to take on the Beijing Games in September, said he hoped the wheelchair rugby team would win Australia’s first gold medal in the adrenalin-charged sport.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to proudly represent your country on the world stage and continue the proud tradition of being a Paralympian.”

Steelers coach Brad Dubberley believed the 2008 squad had the ability, toughness and spirit to bring home the elusive gold.

“This squad is just bursting with strength. It is easily the best team we have ever had, we are definitely expecting big things,” he said.

To nominate a Sports Star of the Week, write to the Journal: 10/841 Mountain Highway, Bayswater 3153: email or call 8727 5200.

Going like mad: Bryce Alman (centre) prepares for the Paralympic Games.