Eastern University Games Report
This past week saw the final regional University Game take place in Newcastle and what a week it was, with plenty of highs, a couple of lows and a whole heap of fun had by all involved. This year ANU took more than 160 students to Newcastle to compete across 8 sports with 14 teams registered. While the number of students taken to the games was slightly lower than previous years the quality of competitors was higher than ever.
The teams were greeted with a -6c start on Sunday morning as they made the long drive up to Newcastle. The team met in Charlsetown, just outside of Newcastle for a team lunch to give everyone a chance to meet their fellow ANU team members and for the ANU Sport staff to give everyone a rundown of the week ahead. The lunch also gave teams an opportunity to quickly present to the other teams about their goals for the week and some interesting facts about the players in their respective teams. Once all the formalities were over at the lunch teams headed off to their accommodation for the week to settle in and get ready for the big week ahead.
The first day of competition commenced with a number of teams having very early starts and a number of games to get through on the first day. The teams, despite the early starts, were all in high spirits which translated in to some strong performances on the field with a number of teams making positive starts to their respective competitions. The first day of competition can set the tone for the week at Unigames and going off this mantra the ANU Owls would be in for a successful week. Four ANU teams managed to make it through the first day of competition undefeated being the Men’s Football who after a shaky start to the morning found their feet and looked far more confident as the day went on, the Mixed Ultimate Disc who blew both of their opponents out of the water, Mixed Netball who while only having the one game managed to secure a win and Men’s Hockey who were the surprise package of the first day having big wins over UTS and Western Sydney. A number of other teams have strong performances throughout the day and no teams were out of contention for a medal. This year ANU Sport had implemented a “Match of the Day” where in which teams that are not competing were encouraged to get down and support other sports that were on. On Monday the Match of the Day was that of Women’s Volleyball against UNWS. Unfortunately for the girls the result did not go their way but it was fantastic to see all the members from the Touch and Football teams down their supporting. ANU Team Captain Laura O’Neill was full of praise for all of those who came down and supported and found it really helped to lift the team.
While the first day of competition can set the tone for the week often the second day of the competition can make or break a team’s medal aspirations and has often been a day to forget for the ANU Owls at past EUG’s. While some teams did struggle on the second day of competition the ANU still managed to have three teams undefeated at the end of the day, those being the Men’s Football, Ultimate Disc and Men’s Hockey. There was also first wins of the week for the Women’s Volleyball and Hockey teams as well as both of the Lawn Bowl teams. The Women Hockey in particular had had a difficult first day of competition with a number of players getting used to playing with each other and learning to play new roles within the team. They did not let the early results get them down though and in their final match on day 2 beat the University of Sydney 10-2. In the Tennis the duo of Luke Jirman and Avishka Perera both missed out on the Round of 16 but played some great tennis along the way.
Day 3 of the competition saw a number of highly anticipated matches take place across the day as ANU teams looked to cement their position going into the finals on the last day of the competition. While the 3 undefeated ANU teams were obviously committed to ensuring that they walked away from the competition with a medal it was fantastic to see that even those teams that were already out of medal contention continued to push themselves in order to finish the week off on high note. This was highlighted by the Men’s Touch team, who had been having a difficult week in regards to results but came up against UC in their final match. The team managed to put it all together for the big game and came out 7-6 winners, amazing what a bit of cross town rivalry will do for a team. The Men’s Football finished the group stages of their competition against UNSW who were sitting on top of the table. The boys put on a clinic winning the game 3-0, resulting in them finishing on top of the table and sending a message to the rest of the competition in the process. The Men’s Hockey all managed to finish their group stages undefeated after a last gasp goal saw them win their final match of the day against a strong UON 2 team. The win saw them finish 2nd during the pool stages and ready to make a run at the gold on the last day of the competition.
While these were both fantastic results the highlight of day 3 was definitely the Ultimate Disc blockbuster against USYD which was also the ANU Match of the Day. The match was played at the later time slot of 6.30pm which allowed a number of teams the opportunity to come and watch the match. It was fantastic to see the sidelines packed with ANU students from a wide variety of teams and sports. It was also the first time a number of students have had the opportunity to watch an Ultimate Disc game and they were definitely in for a show. Both teams were littered with Australian representatives and the athleticism and skill on show was went a long way to changing the perception of the sport in a lot of people’s minds. Unfortunately ANU was not able to get the win in this game but the team was tunnelled of by the 100 odd ANU Owls who came to support the team. As the team made their way through the tunnel each individual who competed wore a grin from ear to ear, it was evident just how much it meant for all those involved to have their fellow competitors embrace the team and throw their support behind them win or lose. At ANU Sport we having really be working towards getting all the competitors at events such as Unigames to buy into a team culture where everyone supports each other and embraces the one team mentality. Seeing students go out of their way to fully support a team and also interact with other teams on the sidelines in such a positive fashion was really a sight to behold and a massive highlight of the week. The match was live streamed on the ANU Sport Facebook page, it is definitely worth a watch, both for the fantastic game of Ultimate Disc and the atmosphere created by the ANU Owls.
The final day of competition saw three teams competing for medals and a number of other teams striving to finish as high up the table as possible. The day started off on a high note with the Men’s Hockey taking it to UNSW and win the match 3-0 setting up a Gold Medal match with UON. Things were not as easy for the Men’s Football who were favourites going into their match against Cumbo. The team were trailing at half time after conceding a goal just before the half. The boys managed to show a great deal of mental toughness and came back to win 4-3 which booked them a spot in the Gold Medal match against UNSW. Having won the first two semi-finals of the day it was now onto the Ultimate Disc team to make it 3 from 3. They did face very difficult opposition in UTS and were facing a few niggling injuries to players. The Owls got off to hot start and put UTS under a load of pressure, unfortunately the team were not able to finish off their early work and ended up going down 9-11. They would now play off for bronze against MQU.
Men’s Football was the first Gold Medal match to get started in the afternoon and while the team were nervous they were doing their best to not let it show. Team managers Zac Piesse and Sam Nixon had been competing with the Men’s Football team in the past four Eastern University Games and had never managed to make it to the Gold Medal match before, they were not about to let this opportunity slip through their fingers. The team managed to get on the score board first through a converted penalty from Sam Smith. The team went into the half time break up 1-0 but shortly after the break UNSW managed to strike back levelling the game at 1-1. With the clock running down the team were pressing forward looking for the knockout blow, this eventually came in the form of an Olaide Yinka-Kehinde wonder strike which put the team up 2-1 and was enough to wrap up the Gold Medal, the Owls first at EUG’s since 2012.
Over at the Men’s Hockey the team entered the match as underdogs against a highly fancied UON team who had beaten their opposition 11-1 in their semi-final. The team went in with a nothing to lose attitude and took it to Newcastle from the outset. Unfortunately the team conceded an unlucky early goal. This could have been the catalyst for the team to drop their heads and let their favoured opposition get the better of them but the team had got to this point of the week by grinding out results and this was not about to change now. The Owls continued to soak up plenty of pressure, refusing to concede again. Eventually this lead to a counter attack opportunity which resulted in a short corner, Jacob McNaughton made no mistake in converting this opportunity and levelling the match at 1-1. The rest of the game was a tight affair with the team not having many attacking opportunities and having to do plenty of defending against a skilful Newcastle team. It looked like they had done enough to send the game into penalty flicks but on the last play of the game UON won a penalty as the clock run out. Unfortunately the underdog story was ruined as the opposition converted the chance and won after the siren had run out. The team were obviously upset with the loss but could hold their heads up high knowing that they had given their absolute all. The team had had to play the week with only 12 players while most of the other squads had upwards of 16 making their efforts throughout the week all the more impressive and finishing with a Silver Medal was a fantastic effort from this team. Special mention must also go to the Women’s Hockey team who had a bit of a tough week on the field but were tremendous in always being on the sidelines screaming their lungs out at the men’s games no matter how early or late they were playing.
In the final medal match the Ultimate Mixed team managed to take out the Bronze Medal match against Macquarie in a nail bitting 12-11 win. This was just rewards for a team who put a huge amount of work in the lead up to the games and never dropped their heads event after a few close losses. Both the ANU and ANU 2 Ultimate teams were fantastic throughout the week and can be really proud of all of their efforts both in the lead up to and while at the games.
That ended what had been a very successful week for the ANU Owls. The week was filled with many memories that will last a lifetime and new friendships were forged and old ones were furthered solidified. The whole team made a real effort to support one another and ensure that the team going away to represent the ANU at University Games is one the university as a while can be proud of. On behalf of ANU Sport, we would like to thank and congratulate all who competed, everyone played in the right spirit and gave it their all while out on the field. A special congratulations has to go to all the medal winners and teams that exceeded their own expectations. Thankyou all for a great week and we hope to see you all at AUGs in September. #TeamANU #Owlnation