THE calendar shows there is less than a year to go before the Australian Steelers aim to defend their Paralympic Games wheelchair rugby title in Tokyo.
They took another step on the road to Japan with success in the Asia-Oceania championships in Korea on September 6.
The Steelers gained a small slice of revenge for their world championship loss in August last year with a hard-fought 57-55 victory.
While there were still ranking points on the line throughout the tournament, their main aim was to try a few new things and see what worked.
Captain Ryley Batt was impressed with what the new-look side managed to achieve.
"It was a really good confidence-builder for us because we weren't sure if we were going backwards a bit because we've been so dominant for the last 10 years," he said.
We weren't sure if we were going backwards a bit because we've been so dominant for the last 10 years.Ryley Batt
"We were fortunate enough to run new players and try different things and it worked.
"The best thing about the whole comp was we didn't run our main lineups; we played a lot of new players and they really stepped up."
The world championship final loss to Japan still burns in the back of the Steelers' minds so Batt admitted it was satisfying to turn the tables on them in a major tournament.
"We wanted to get revenge because last time we played them in a major they beat us by one point and upset us where they had never done that before," he said.
"Losing world champs last year really hurt because the team hasn't had a major loss like that since 2010.
"We've been in every final at a major tournament since 2008 so we should be happy about that, but you're not used to losing and it really hurts."
Australia heads to Tokyo next month as one of eight teams who will compete at the World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge.
It will give the team another insight into how much of a "scary" prospect Japan will be when September rolls around next year for the Paralympics.
"They're an absolute powerhouse of a team at the moment and they're going to be scary in Tokyo so as much as we can win against them the better it is for us," Batt said.
"We'll play them again even though they're not in our pool and chances are we might cross over or play them in the final."
The Steelers captain admitted any confidence boost the team could gain in the next 12 months would only be of benefit ahead of what could be the closest Paralympic tournament ever.
Any one of five teams could win gold in Tokyo.
"Everything is a step on the road to Tokyo 2020 at the moment," he said.
"We try to peak at the right time so even if we did have a loss it wouldn't have been a major thing for us, but our sights are September next year so that's the big picture.
"We really want the win in a couple of weeks, but in saying that if we do lose, no one remembers who wins the World Cup, but everyone remembers who wins the Paralympics."
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