Australian University Games: a La Trobe University preview

My personal Australian University Games Banner (Google Images - Source)
My personal Australian University Games Banner (Google Images – Source)

Back in July almost 2,000 students converged on Ballarat for Southern University Games for four days and nights of sport and socialising.

Now, it’s September, and University Games is back for its biggest event of the year.  This time, the number of students will be somewhat closer to 6,000, and the location will be the Gold Coast. It’s time for Australian University Games (AUG).

It won’t just be pride on the line for team La Trobe come games time; having taken out the Southern University Games overall championship, there’s a crown to defend as well.

A lot of hard work and effort from the Sports Centre and Team Managers goes into organising teams, funds and resources to send such a strong contingent to University Games (the overall team size at Ballarat was almost 300).

There are 31 sports to be played all across the Gold Coast region over six fantastic days of competition, and La Trobe will compete in 21 of these.  Having the opportunity to represent your university at such a prestigious event (Australian University Games is the largest university sporting event in the country) gives competitors a sense and pride and accomplishment.

With the number one goal of securing a top ten ranking, students are fired up and ready for the competition that’s on offer.

One sport that will involve a lot of running and physical demand is ultimate frisbee.  La Trobe this year has largely a developmental team, and Thomas Mutton says that the physicality of Men’s League is similar to the level of competition at AUG, and has helped his game mentality.

“Last year, my game style changed a lot.  It’s faster and a lot more physical (than mixed ultimate)…you have to think a lot quicker on your feet.

“AUG is much more serious.  It is much more physical…you’re running up to five matches in a row, it’s a lot more endurance work.”

Thomas says that rather than think about the hard work involved, you just get out onto the fields and play.  Neil Navarro conveys the importance of playing lots is beneficial in being properly prepared for something as demanding as university games.

“As a club, we (LATUUF) play at least three times a week…Monday night league, Sunday uni league and Tuesday training.  I do my own training outside of my club, go to the gym and try and stay in physical shape.”

Seeded to come 13th in Adelaide last year, the frisbee team exceeded expectations and finished seventh.  While there are a lot of new players, training has progressed rapidly and the sportsmanship is at encouraging levels.  The only thing that could wreak havoc with the game is the wind, Thomas admits.

“The fields are on a flat plain, near a cricket field and wind farm…there’s going to be high levels of wind.  We’ll see what happens.”

Mixed netball sees La Trobe ranked second behind Victoria University going into the games.  A hard and fast sport, first year paramedicine student Paige Stephenson expresses that netball is in her blood, having grown up in a small town.

“It was netball that you had to play…we’d walk down to the netball courts after school in a big group.”  Paige has been playing for more than 13 years now, in competition and with friends.  When it comes to university games, there’s a huge sense of camaraderie within the group.

“It’s definitely more laid back rather than competitive…my local netball doesn’t compare to uni games, it has a different vibe.  It’s more about having fun and meeting new friends…there’s definitely pride on the line.”  RMIT will be in the firing line as La Trobe look to extend the on-court rivalry.

The women’s volleyball team came away with a silver medal in Ballarat, having put in some very strong performances.  Sheridan Olsen will be heading to her fourth games on the sunny Gold Coast, and says a top five placing is the squads expectation.

“That (the placing) would be amazing considering we have had very limited training,s and have never played together as a team before. It will be interesting and exciting to see what happens.

“It’s great to be able to go to uni games and play at a higher level…the competition level at my local club has dropped off.”

Athletics is promising to be a much more grueling affair compared to other sports; and that’s mainly because of travel time.  With the Gold Coast track out of commission, athletes will have to make the trek to Brisbane (over an hour) there and back for every day of competition.  Simone McIness has been to the Gold Coast before, and says the early starts loom large.

“In 2011, the night before our main event, we went to bed pretty early…a lot of us only have one or two main events, so the rest of the time will be pretty relaxed.”

Athletics is a very individual result, and Simone says that training routines are very different to the team sports.

“We didn’t even know each other (in 2011) until we were up there…but we all made sure that we were at the track for the first event.”  Having a small squad meant that the support from other teams was very loud and enthusiastic during the long distance walks, demonstrating that La Trobe is passionate about creating a positive image for the university.

Richard Speirs not only has a playing role with the male futsal and soccer team, he will also be an assistant coach for the women’s side.

While all the teams have a wealth of experience, the important thing is development at the games, Speirs declares.

“The important approach is to develop teams together on a regular basis…to know and understand each others game.  It will be paramount in the event of claiming a medal.”

Each match looks to be tough, and Monash and Melbourne University are the potential threats.

“There is a lot of talent in the side…the development of the team has been resting on players learning from each other.  Rest, recovery and preparation will be vital to the team effort to medal.”

Playing inside won’t make it any easier; futsal is played on a hard court.

“Recovery will involve hitting the beach post match…it has the benefits reducing joint swelling and cooling down the body rapidly.”

At the end of the day, students can let their hair down at the themed social nights.  The opening ceremony will take place on Surfers Paradise beach on Sunday.

The excitement from all competitors leads to almost identical thoughts: having a good time, meeting other people and dancing the night away.

La Trobe is set for a big week of action on the Gold Coast.  The friendships that are made at university games can last a lifetime, and the memories competitors will come back with will never be forgotten.

This is a sneak peek of what we’ll see at the games.  Are you ready, La Trobe?

The media 

La Trobe is sending three students (myself, a sports journalist, and two other media students) to be the university media team at the games.  Our role is to get to all the sports that La Trobe is participating over the competition days – September the 29th to October the 4th.  We will be writing articles at the end of each day providing a run down of the sports we went to, results and outstanding performances.  Photos from sports will also be provided.  While I travel between sports I will tweet results and live updates during the day.

We are looking to get to the widest possible audience, so links to where reports, photos etc are listed – I will also be posting my daily reports here on Beyond Realisation.


LTU Uni Games Facebook page here

My Twitter: @Davis_Harr

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