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'Rude awakening' drives Bazley to Queensland debut

Brett Bazley knows the value of comradeship on many levels, whether it be getting a job done or in times of need.

And that same feeling will extend to the court on Saturday when he debuts for the Queensland wheelchair rugby league team, where he will be eager to do anything to support his newfound mates.

It's in part because he knows the sacrifices it takes to make it to the top of your game.

Bazley was once a rising Aussie Rules star, coming through the grades in the VFL system as he pushed for selection in the AFL Draft.

The dream slipped away but he found a new path, joining the army and bringing about a move to Townsville, which also served as an introduction to rugby league.

It wasn't until many years later he turned to wheelchair rugby league.

While on deployment in Timor-Leste, Bazley was pack marching with his battalion when he developed a sharp pain in his shins. Next thing he knew, both legs snapped.

The bones healed sufficiently for day-to-day activities, but he was not deemed medically fit to rejoin the army even after two years and five surgeries battling to remain.

"I was medically discharged from the army. I'd played high-level AFL and cricket my whole life and I got told I wasn't able to do it anymore," he said.

Used to a lifetime of physical activity, in 2021 Bazley heard about wheelchair rugby league and soon became hooked on the skill and the contact that made it every bit the rough and tumble of its field counterparts, despite a "rude awakening".

'How hard can it be' was his first thought. How wrong could he be.

"The first time, it was pretty good," he said.

"And then second time I met a guy called Peter Arbuckle (his now Queensland teammate and Wheelaroos representative) who destroyed me and said, 'I hope you feel comfortable on the ground'.

"I got told not to muck around with him and I took it as a joke and I started a war game with him, which is going to be on for a little while.

"I've learned to tie my pants up pretty tight these days.

"I guess it was a bit of a turning point though, coming up against him.

"Perhaps it gave me a true understanding of where I needed to get to and what I needed to do to be able to play with some of these people."

Bazley has progressed quickly through the ranks in the burgeoning Townsville wheelchair rugby league scene and stood out to coach and England 2021 World Cup winner Jack Brown in the City v Country match earlier this year to earn what he felt was a surprise call-up.

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"It's been pretty welcoming. The north Queensland boys made it like a family environment, brought me down here and have pretty much chaperoned me and protected me the whole time.

"It's been great learning off the different players and learning how we all play the different game, and how we've come together.

"The work off the scenes with the North Queensland team, I couldn't thank them enough to help me and support me to be able to work harder and push harder, to be a better person in the chair, to be able to get my opportunity to play on July 8."

Bazley and Dan Anstey are the two debutants in the 10-man squad heading to Sydney Olympic Park for the Wheelchair State Challenge, which will be broadcast live and free on from 3pm Saturday.


Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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