Silver medal sees men’s team step up at UniSport Nationals
The Avondale Eagles will now play against teams from the top universities in Australia after claiming silver in men’s touch at UniSport Nationals Div 2.
Led by captain Jesse Fua, the Eagles powered through pool play, winning seven and drawing one of their nine games. Their only loss: to eventual champions The University of Queensland.
Buoyed by a crowd of supporters, including teammates from other competitions and even Avondale alumni from the Gold Coast, the Eagles ran onto the field for the final through a human tunnel formed by players from Bond University. In a competitive game, the team started well but soon fell behind by two tries. Crossing the line proved all the more difficult as frustration with some of the referees’ calls grew. The final score: 12-5.
In keeping with their usual practice, the team members then formed a circle with the opposition players, took a knee and prayed. “We wished them well for their studies,” says Fua, who describes the post-game prayer as one of the highlights of his week. He acknowledges some of the players may have felt awkward at first, “but they really appreciated the gesture.”
Training for the nationals began before mid-semester break with the touch team—“the most drilled in the competition,” according to Fua—on the oval at Avondale up to three times a week. “I’m proud of the boys. A lot of them hadn’t played much touch before, but they grounded it out and lifted their game when it counted.”
Eagles manager Hayden Ward says the sport itself—with six players on the field in a game with as many again as substitutes—and the culture Fua fostered helped create a sense of “a brotherhood.” The team’s success—it finished fourth in the competition this past year—will also motivate other students. “They’re already keen to start training for next year.”
The other team to do well: women’s volleyball. It finished pool play in fourth, winning two games in the elimination rounds and then the playoff for 9th. The Eagles also entered teams in men’s basketball (13th) and futsal (15th) and women’s football (5th), touch (5th) and basketball (10th).
Sixty-six students represented Avondale at the nationals. Their investment of time—in training and travel—and their conduct on and off the field impressed Ward, the Sport and Recreational Officer. “They just never gave up and, at the end of the day, they just had a lot of fun.”
The UniSport Nationals Div 2, held again on the Gold Coast, July 8-11, featured 11 competitions across men’s, women’s, mixed and open categories.
The Avondale men’s touch team will now prepare for September’s UniSport Nationals Div 1. It features 29 competitions with only the top teams from previous events qualifying for each competition. The two lowest placing teams in each competition will be relegated to Div 2.