Brendan Dowler admits he felt "surprised" and "humbled" after finding out that he is set to be added to NSW basketball royalty.
It was announced this week that the Wollongong product will be inducted into the Basketball NSW Hall of Fame, which will take place at Novotel Northbeach on November 25. Dowler has been recognised for his significant contribution to wheelchair basketball, both as a player and coach, for close to three decades.
He turned his attention to the sport after becoming a paraplegic in 1993 after finding that he had a tumour in his spinal cord.
His playing career began two years later and Dowler became a powerhouse in the National Wheelchair Basketball League, winning championships with the Wollongong Roller Hawks and West Sydney Razorbacks. Dowler received the NWBL's Low Point Most Valuable Player award in 2003, and he was selected as one of the league's All-Star Five in 2001 and 2003.
Dowler had immense success on the international stage, playing more than 100 games for the Aussie Rollers. Highlights included claimed a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Olympics and winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.
His post-playing career, the Illawarra homegrown talent has continued to taste plenty of success as head coach of the Wollongong Roller Hawks. He guided them to the NWBL championship in 2012, before winning four back-to-back titles between 2017 and 2022. Dowler was named NWBL Coach of the Year in 2012, 2017 and 2019.
Dowler told the Mercury that it was now a great honour to be inducted into Basketball NSW's Hall of Fame.
"I'm surprised and humbled, especially in a team sport, where it's nice to know that people thought I made a positive contribution in that team environment," the 55-year-old said.
"I had a tumour in my spinal cord when I was 25, and that's why I used a wheelchair from that point on, and I wanted to stay fit so I tried a few things, like tennis and track. But basketball is the one that I enjoyed the most. It was fun and I enjoyed the team environment, I enjoyed having teammates and that camaraderie. You're sharing those highs and lows, which is one of the great things about team sport.
"Wheelchair basketball is a great sport. I stayed with it, I had some success and enjoyed it, and enjoyed the social networking which is intertwined with wheelchair basketball. It becomes part of your life and I've been lucky to be in some good teams and play with some great people."
Dowler said he was particularly proud to have been involved with the Roller Hawks.
"It's great that a local team from a regional area can achieve so much on the national stage and knock off some of the big cities. That's always a feather in our cap for the Illawarra region," he said.
"It's a strong sporting area and a lot of people have succeeded from down here, so the Roller Hawks love to be part of that. And we're a tight-knit group down here, and that's part of why I love it too. It's a great group of people and the support that we get from the local community - right across the board - helps us as well.
"We hang out as well outside of basketball, we go around to each other's place for barbecues, birthdays and stuff like that. And I think that helps us perform when we go on the court."
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