The Wheel Blacks squad is now complete for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with Barney Koneferenisi named to replace three-time Paralympian Cameron Leslie.
1 NEWS revealed Koneferenisi’s call up at the Paralympics farewell function in Auckland last night.
“It was interesting, a couple of days ago I did get the call up," Koneferenisi told 1 NEWS.
"I had no idea I was going to be the replacement player.”
Koneferenisi wasn’t meant to be playing any international rugby this year but because Leslie withdrew due to family reasons, he couldn’t say no to a Paralympic debut.
“It’s always been a dream ever since I was a kid, trying to qualify for the 2012 Paralympics and not having any luck with that.
"But now getting the chance to go I’m very honoured."
Coincidentally, Koneferenisi was first introduced to wheelchair rugby in 2009 following a chat with Leslie at the NZ Artificial Limb Centre. It was then he became interested in the idea of the physicality of the sport.
He went along to his first practice and fell in love - literally.
“That first practise was really hard as I face-planted so many times," he said.
"I can’t wait to get on the court and give it everything I have.”
Paralympians farewelled by family, friends and PM
Last night, at Weta Workshop in SkyCity, the New Zealand Paralympic Team selected to represent Aotearoa at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was presented formally for the first time and farewelled, in the presence of the guest of honour, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Over 150 Paralympians, Para athletes, support staff, supporters and special guests, including Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni, joined the celebration marking exactly "39 Days to Go" until the opening ceremony.
The 28 selected para-athletes were called by name and asked to join Tokyo 2020 Chef de Mission Paula Tesoriero on stage to receive their Pounamu. Support staff were presented with their Pounamu at a special presentation earlier in the afternoon.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be broadcast live with TVNZ. Viewers can catch all the action of the Paralympics as it unfolds each day on TVNZ DUKE (Freeview Channel 13 and Sky Channel 23). Coverage will also be live streamed through TVNZ OnDemand, with catch up viewing of select events available on the platform. 1 NEWS will support the live broadcast with extensive coverage of our New Zealand Paralympians as they go for gold in Japan across TVNZ 1’s daily news programming and 1news.co.nz.