Six-time Paralympic swimming medallist Blake Cochrane s turning his attention to wheelchair rugby ©Getty Images

Paralympic swimming champion Blake Cochrane and Tokyo 2020 wheelchair racing bronze medallist Robyn Lambird are among the athletes picked for the Australian wheelchair rugby development squad's first international tour.

Tai Martin-Page, Luke Matthews, Jayden Jackson, Justin Goh, Chad Graham, Damian Mortaud, Rubie Gallagher and Cam Whittaker have also been included.

The 10 athletes are set to compete in the New Zealand National Championship as an Australian invitational team.

Paul Kiteley, Paralympics Australia’s national performance director for wheelchair rugby, says the first-of-its-kind tour is a landmark for the sport in Australia.

"At the start of this process, we set ourselves some tough KPIs [key performance indicators] around identifying more talent, targeting certain impairment types and classifications, bringing more female athletes into the high-performance programme and building playing depth nationwide, not just in the usual hotspots," Kiteley said.

"When you see how things have progressed, you can’t help but think, 'Wow, they are solid numbers now.'

"From where we've come from to where we are now, I think we’re building the foundations to make a huge impact at the Paris Games [in 2024], but beyond that, it looks like our sport is in great shape to really go forward and develop a system that can sustain success on a long-term basis."

Australia were involved in every Paralympic and World Championship final between 2008 and 2018, winning two Paralympic titles and one world title in the process.

Australia failed to win a medal at Tokyo 2020, however, after losing to hosts Japan in the bronze-medal match.

Wheelchair rugby is a mixed-gender sport at the Paralympic Games.

Australia placed fourth at at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
Australia placed fourth at at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

Funding support from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), which includes the provision of a solutions grant two years ago, has been credited with helping 20 athletes transition into elite programmes nationally, improving the recruitment of female athletes, staging three development camps and fostering coaching talent.

The wheelchair rugby programme has also sought to facilitate "talent-transfer" opportunities and allow athletes from other sports to join, such as Lambird and Cochrane, who has won six Paralympic medals.

Both won medals at Tokyo 2020.

"Without the crucial funding and excellent pathway support provided by the AIS over the past 15 months, our progress to strengthen the depth of elite wheelchair rugby talent would not have been possible," Kiteley said.

"Everyone within the programme is really excited and proud to be in this position.

"The contribution and dedication from our own staff has been enormous, but the fact that we have had the backing of the AIS to be able bring this development group together, host camps, purchase new equipment and provide resources and infrastructure to enable more athletes and coaches to train and ensure their pathway is fast-tracked is a real feather in the cap of the AIS and the whole system working together."

The New Zealand National Championship is due to be held between September 2 and 4 at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.