Warm weather and some serious competition. For one week the Gold Coast played host to almost 9,000 students from 41 universities and tertiary institutions for the biggest Australian University Games in history.
Camaraderie was in full show at each sports venue, each team became stronger by the day in terms of sportsmanship. The fun didn’t stop on the sporting field, though; each night students let their hair down and partied it up with fellow universities.
With a team of more than 280 attending the games, taking twelfth place against some very tough opposition on the field was a great achievement. There were a few fantastic highlights; namely the men’s AFL team, and women’s soccer team, who both went undefeated to claim gold medals.
What makes the women’s soccer gold even more special is that the last team competed six years ago. Captain Melissa Missailidis took on the responsibility of leading a side on field that had barely had three training sessions together, and she was well supported by enthusiastic and intelligent coach Joe Kovacevic.
“I’d like to thank La Trobe University the opportunity to coach the girls…they’ve been absolutely fantastic, and we kept it very simple,” said Kovacevic after the Grand Final.
Being able to coach all the girls in one style of game play made the job easier and the whole team understood Joe’s philosophy.
“What’s important is that the girls bought in to what I wanted to do…they all played very well, they knew what to do when we did and didn’t have the ball.
“I made sure that the girls played in their usual positions. Keeping pressure on the ball and picking up a player, and I’m just so proud of them.”
The same words rang true with women’s hockey coach Abbey Konieczny, who took her side almost to the medal matches, the only obstacle being goal difference. Gold Coast facilities at the Labrador hockey club brought in an extra challenge, that of a grass field, which made play more difficult at stages.
“It was frustrating and disappointing that games were played on grass…it changes the game completely. Teams that we were beating easily on turf, won easily against teams we drew against on grass, simply because of the surface difference. In saying that we didn’t utilise our scoring opportunities on grass either, but we got better as the week went on.”
A very special type of bond brings the La Trobe University hockey team together, and keeping the squad consistent this year was a huge benefit.
“This year, the girls had a feel for how each other played and team work definitely was a highlight of the week. It helps having a big group as well because on or off the field, you knew you would always have someone with you.”
Another great achievement was the men’s AFL team, who won all of their games, including the gold medal match. Playing out at Labrador, the conditions were primarily hot, stiff winds and ground, but the guys didn’t let that phase them. Through plenty of teamwork and good forward line delivery, the boys continued to dismantle every team in front of them. Both the AFL and soccer teams will now move to Division One at next year’s Australian University Games in Sydney.
Tenpin bowling also swept all that opposed them to take home the Division Two gold medal. Lead by Ryan Newell, the squad did face the challenge of waking up weary and somewhat battle sore each morning, but Ashmore then became home for the side, which was bolstered by the addition of Jay Pitman and Jevon Kett.
Mixed beach volleyball came away with a silver medal, a fine effort against teams that had firepower in spades. That certainly didn’t stop competitor and La Trobe University team captain Larissa Payne from having a ball, while keeping up her responsibilities as a leader.
“Being the team manager of beach volleyball and team captain for LTU certainly added importance to my role as a manager. The experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
A bit out of her comfort zone playing beach volleyball, having two players that knew the ropes was a definite benefit. However, fatigue and injury still hit.
“Having two state players, Ella and Ben was certainly an important factor for us taking home the silver medal. Bodies did come sore and tired towards the end of the week and some are still recovering.”
For all involved in the games, including Larissa, the unanimous opinion about the whole games was it’s one experience they will never forget. The medals just make it even more special.
Other significant results included silver to a very strong lawn bowls and mixed netball team; the baseball team took home fourth while squash took home bronze.
All other competitors and sports receive honourable mentions for their sportsmanship, teamwork and representation of team La Trobe throughout the week that was Australian University Games. The inaugural sailing team can feel proud of their efforts; so can Ryan Dessens from the swimming team and Simone McInnes on the athletics track. All green and gold medal recipients stood up in their sport and were deserving winners; including Natalie Frizzell, who took home her fourth green and gold.
Finished but not forgotten, the memories that students have brought back will be with them forever; and you could not have asked for a better place to hold it than the Gold Coast.
(This is a summary of the teams that came home with medals; baseball were just pipped for fourth. Check out all our photos and daily reports on the LTUUniGames page)