The last week of September saw a squad of young men travel to Adelaide to represent the University of Queensland at the Australian University Games. Despite a long history of representation at the early intervarsity games and a couple of teams competing at the rebranded Australian University Games during the 1990’s UQ unfortunately struggled to source the numbers required for an AFL team at the games until recently. After re-establishing ourselves in 2009 on the Gold Coast and then making the trip down the highway again in 2011, this year presented our first opportunity to head interstate.
Recruiting was made a little more difficult than previous years due to the added cost of travelling to Adelaide and it was fantastic to have the UQAFC connection allowing the team to fundraise at the Norman Hotel. Considering that the core of the uni games team is always a solid group of Red Lions it certainly makes sense for the team to compete under the club banner. A number of talented players from the club who were eligible to compete were nonetheless unable to afford the trip so the squad was rounded out by a handful of other UQ students who all had a great time, many of whom mentioned possibly joining their new mates at the Red Lions next year. Other universities obviously found it even more difficult and were not able to field an AFL team with the result being that the AFL competition shrunk from its usual two divisions to just the one.
Considering our playing list was slightly weaker than it could have been and that we would be competing against the historically very strong teams from Southern universities we were always going to be a little bit out of our depth during matches. The squad was certainly far stronger off the field, earning the self-appointed ‘Team of the Week’ crown for a number of late night antics, and as such were often not in the best shape on the playing field. A number of boys even helped out the Thebarton Oval ground staff by sporadically donating some regurgitated nourishment onto the field of play. Nonetheless the team put in a lot of effort and managed to secure two victories during the week. The first was against a very serious Murdoch University side mid-week, while the second came on the last day of play in the match to determine the wooden spoon. A victory there over Edith Cowan University saw the boys finish in 11th place.
A vote count and presentation dinner was held on the final night in Adelaide which saw Nick Kent adjudged the best on field over the week. Matthias “Cheech” Falzon then took out the Bruce Larkin Medal as best off field, finishing just a single vote ahead of both Nick Kent and young Jayden Astridge. All of the boys had an amazing week and it was great to see how quickly and easily everyone jelled. Everyone from the youngest to the very oldest member of the team was on their best behaviour with many good stories but few lasting issues to report. The boys made friends with everywhere they went, from restaurants and nightclubs to the buses to and from the match venue, and the trip is sure to live on in infamy for many years through hazy recounts of the week’s events.
The success of the uni games team over the last couple of years has the squad poised for greatness in 2013. With many players from previous years eager for another games we will likely be afforded the luxury of being able to hand-pick players and should not have to recruit to fill the side. As the regional Northern University Games are scheduled to be held in Brisbane during July and the Australian University Games are back on the Gold Coast it is almost certain that we will be able to field a team at both competitions for the first time. The team is likely to organise its own accommodation on the Gold Coast to avoid issues with UQ Sport that have occurred recently and will be attempting to secure additional space to accommodate supporters. It should be a very strong side competing next year who could potentially win a medal so it would be fantastic to have a large Red Lions contingent cheering on the team toward the end of the week and joining in on the late night festivities.