An (indoor) league of their own
The weather can affect how a sport is played, and sometimes if it is played at all. Luckily for the University of Melbourne’s indoor sports clubs who play in the Beaurepaire Centre and Sports Centre on campus, they need to worry only about the competition ahead, come rain or shine.
As Mechanical Engineering student Jason Wang from the Squash Club says: “Indoor sports such as squash are not only really accessible but also keep things consistent and allow you to focus on your technique as there are no distractions from the weather.”
A former club Secretary and current member of the C Grade team, Jason says the fitness and health aspects of the sport keep him returning to the courts.
“Squash is a lot like physical chess as there‘s a lot of strategy involved. It’s about how well you can deceive your opponent, or work the court,” he says. “Once you reach a certain level, it’s an even playing field.”
Mr Wang hopes to take out the championships this season, as the team came on top against powerhouse rivals Hawthorn in the early rounds of the Pennant Victorian Squash League this year.
The Volleyball Club is also looking for success this year, and Club President and coach Gus Cirillo expects the Men’s Premier Team to finish in the top four of the Victorian Volleyball League.
“The last time the team came first in the competition was in 2009, and we’ve been doing a lot of team rebuilding over the last two years,” he says. “We’re aiming for consistency across the board for the club, but especially hoping the Men’s Premier Team can improve on last year’s results.”
The Volleyball Club has come a long way since its inception in 1990, when it started off as two separate clubs, the University of Melbourne Volleyball Club and the Footscray Renegades. The two clubs formally merged in 2000.
Mr Cirillo was attracted to the sport because it is so different from other ball sports in terms of technique. He also says being involved in competitive sport helps students improve their time management skills.
Postgraduate student and Basketball Club member Maree De Wijn agrees that juggling competitive sport and study can be tough, and says students need to be motivated, and avoid procrastination.
The season has started strongly for Ms De Wijn and the women’s team, with some promising new players on board, and wins on the board in the Big V league, Victoria’s highest senior basketball league. The club also participates in regional tournaments, with the Men’s A Grade Team recently celebrating a victory over Keysborough at the Ballarat Senior Tournament.
Apart from the competitive nature and teamwork aspects of the sport, Ms De Wijn says the club is also just a lot of fun.
“There are definitely social benefits of being involved in the club as it’s a great way to get to know people,” she says.
Melbourne University Netball Club player Bec Treloar is another fan of the social benefits indoor sports have to offer.
“I moved to Melbourne from the country and being part of the club has definitely helped with the transition,” she says.
The club, which has been around for more than 25 years, is one of the biggest on campus. In the Autumn 2011 season, it fielded five premier league teams and eight A grade teams in the Parkville competition. And, as befitting a club with a large membership base, the expectations are high.
“We’re definitely aiming to win the grand final this year,” Ms Treloar says.
Badminton is another sport that will be aiming high this year.
“The club is definitely on the path to restoring its competitiveness after having a difficult period around 2007, due to players retiring and a lack of funding,” says Club Vice President Peejade Chang.
The club hosted three Melbourne University Sport scholarship holders last year, and includes international, state-wide and regional competition players.
Scholarship recipient Luke Chong finished a semi-finalist in the men’s singles and mixed doubles in the Oceania Championships earlier this year, and club member Jeff Toh represented Australia in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Table Tennis Club President Michael Wajngarten is also looking forward to some exciting times ahead, as he looks beyond the local competitions and towards a revenge showdown against Monash University in the Australian University Games this September-October.
“We were runners up last year, but we’re hoping to take home the gold medal in 2012,” he says.
Regardless of their aspirations, however, all the players agree it’s the sheer love for their sport that keeps them coming back each year.
“I love table tennis,” Mr Wajngarten says. ”You can play it your entire life. It’s a lifelong sport and a lot of good players are even 75 or 80 years old. I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing it.”