The 2017 Australian University Games was held on the Gold Coast from the 24th-29th of September with over 8000 participants from 42 tertiary institutions across the country attending the games. This year The ANU was represented by 148 of the university’s best athletes as teams looked to prove that The ANU is more than just one of the top academic institutes in the country but also a power house on the sporting field.
With the martial arts kicking off over the weekend The ANU Owls started the week strongly with Yosuke Okade winning Gold in the Individual Dan in the Kendo competition and a Silver in the Men’s Judo. This was a fantastic start to the week by the martial artist and would hopefully set the tone for things to come.
The first day of team competition is vitally important for a competition such as Unigames as it can set up the rest of the week for teams, some early wins can help teams build confidence and put the team in a good position to push on for finals later in the week while early losses can quickly derail a team’s week. In the past ANU teams have had some struggles with results on the first day and have not been able to recover, thankfully with increased emphasis on preparation in the lead up to the games a lot of the ANU Owls came flying out of the blocks and were able to record some crucial early wins and put themselves in a strong position for the rest of the week. A number of teams finished the first day undefeated and caused a few upsets along the way despite the sweltering 30 degree conditions.
The second day of competition proved a little bit more difficult for some teams as they succumbed to their first defeats of the competition against high quality opposition. Others who had struggled on the first day managed to get their week back on track and start to put some strong performances together. By the end of the day all of the ANU Owls had recorded wins and two of the teams, The Beach Volleyball and Men’s Hockey remained undefeated and both proving to be surprised packets of their respective competitors.
The start of the third day saw the undefeated Men’s Hockey take on The University of Queensland who were also undefeated in their pool and were shaping as the early favourites to win the competition. This did not deter the boys though as they took it to their favoured opposition early on and were able to put two quick goals on the board leaving UQ stunned. While UQ managed to get one back early in the second half ANU managed to keep the pressure on and were able to extend their lead to 3-1 with only 10 minutes to go. Unfortunately, the heat from the previous days competition started to take its toll on the boys and the UQ team who were used to these conditions took full advantage slotting three goals in the final 10 minutes of the contest to come away 4-3 over the ANU Owls. This was a fantastic effort for the boys who were the better team for the majority of the game and put the rest of the competition on notice. Over in the Beach Volleyball the Owls took on Melbourne University who also remained undefeated in their pool and this game would decide who finished in first going into the quarter finals. The team look in complete control taking the first set with relative ease and looked like they would take the match comfortably. However, someone clearly forgot to tell Melbourne as they rallied in the second set as the Owls took their foot off the gas a little bit and let their opposition back into the match. It would mean that the game would go to a third set and what a set it was. The set seesawed back and forwards with neither team able to seize control of the match. In the end The Owls showed their quality and composure and managed to force their opposition into making simple mistakes in crucial moments and came away with the crucial victory and finishing on top of their pool. Results were largely positive for the ANU Owls on the Wednesday and another crucial victory was had as teams donned batyr socks in support of the “One Sock One Goal” campaign which aims to help start the conversation around mental health and smash the stigma around mental illness. It was great to see the athletes embrace the opportunity to support such a fantastic cause and wear these socks with pride.
Day 4 of competition started a bit shakily for The Owls as both the Men’s Cricket and Badminton teams were eliminated from medal contentions with tough loses against very strong opposition. Both teams had medal aspirations in the lead up to the games but through unfavourable draws and tough loses were not able to progress as far as they would have liked in the competition but had both given their all and performed admirably in the competition. Moods were quickly lifted though as the ANU Swimming team managed to cap an outstanding meet with a Silver Medal in the Women’s 4x50m medley relay and Bronze in the Women’s 4x50m freestyle relay. With other universities taking away teams 4 times the size of the ANU and having Olympic level swimmers competing in the meet this was an amazing effort by the team. The Sailing team who had a slow start to the week were able to turn it around and finish in 4th for the competition, only narrowly missing out on a medal against world class opposition. Over in the Athletics Angus Proudfoot ran a personal best time to come away with a Silver Medal in the 400m Hurdles and Jess Ronan showed amazing courage to finish 5th in the 5km on a day where temperatures reached over 35 degrees. Over in the Rowing 12 boats had qualified for finals on the last day of competition and the Mixed Four came away with a Bronze Medal in their race. Four of The ANU Owls teams had booked themselves into semi finals with wins in their quarterfinals on the Thursday, those teams being the Men’s Ultimate Disc, Softball, Beach Volleyball and Men’s Hockey. The Men’s Hockey were scheduled to play at 8.10pm against powerhouse Melbourne University. With the game being on so late this gave other teams the opportunity to get out and support the boys as they looked to book a place in the Gold Medal match. The ANU Owls turned out in droves, with over 120 athletes in attendance to cheer on their fellow team mates. Buoyed by the crowd the boys took an early 2-0 lead leaving their opposition stunned heading into the half time break. Similar to the game against UQ the team looked solid early in the second half until a somewhat harsh yellow card to Anand Gupte saw the momentum of the game swing in the favour of Melbourne who took the opportunity with both hands, putting away 4 quick goals and crushing The Owls hope of victory in the process. While the team did not come away with the win it was fantastic to see such a show of support from all of The ANU Owls which shows that the athletes are buying into the culture we are trying to develop at ANU Sport. This culture of supporting each other and all working towards a common goal is something that we will continue to strive and work towards in the years to come and this is a great starting point.
The last day of competition saw four ANU teams still in contention for a medal. The morning was a little bit of a disaster though as all three teams in semi finals went down, meaning that a Bronze Medal was the best result that they could hope for. The Men’s Ultimate Disc would have felt particularly unlucky as they lead their match against UNSW (the eventual Gold Medalist) the entire way through the contest only to have a few stray throws at the end of the game picked off and lose the match after the siren. Despite these early setbacks none of the teams dropped their heads and both the Men’s Hockey and Beach Volleyball pushed on to take out Bronze Medals in their competitions. This was an awesome effort by both of these teams in notoriously strong competitions, neither were fancied to make much of an impact by other teams at the start of the week and proved many people wrong along the way. Both will be back stronger and better next year and will have their eyes firmly on the Gold Medal in 2018.
Overall the week was a massive success for The ANU Owls as all but one team qualified for Division 1 in 2018 and all teams were a credit to themselves and the university with the manner in which they conducted themselves on and off the field. With The ANU having significantly less numbers than some of the bigger universities around the country it is great to see teams punching so far above their weight and really taking it to their more favoured opposition. This feels like the start of something special for The ANU Owls as teams are forming strong core groups of players and students working hard to ensure that the best athletes from around the university are attending the games for their chosen sport. On behalf of ANU Sport we would like to thank everyone who made the week such a massive success and we look forward to seeing you being an ANU Owl for many years to come.