Category Archives: Sport

NCIE nets the Sydney Kings

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“Growing up in the Virgin Islands, I was told that I could never be a basketball player,” said Leon Trimmingham, Sydney Kings basketball legend. It is this kind of negative message that a new partnership between Sydney Kings and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) seeks to challenge by opening doorways for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to pursue their dreams.

Despite what “Neon Leon” was told, the boy from the small island followed his dream and became a professional basketball player for 14 years, having just recently been named in the Kings’ 25th anniversary team. “Dreams do exist,” Leon said. “I’m a living example that dreams exist.”

Under the partnership, made official on October 15, Sydney Kings players train regularly at NCIE’s extensive sporting facilities. Players also help run local school clinics, holiday programs and afterschool programs where they assist children with reading and homework before going out on court to teach them basketball.

The benefits of sport are both physical and emotional. “When someone’s playing sport, they can’t be out getting in trouble,” said NCIE General Manager, Rohan Tobler. “[Sport is good for] health, fitness, lifestyle, getting outdoors, exercising … but it also teaches structure, responsibility, commitment and sometimes, competitive edge.”

More than that, the partnership is about sharing Aboriginal culture with the Sydney Kings to enable them to best cater to any future Aboriginal basketball stars.

Sydney Kings Administration Manager, Lorraine Landon, welcomed the prospect of having an Aboriginal person playing in their top-10 team. In laying out the career pathway, she said, “It’s important that we understand the culture. It’s not one-size-fits-all. So it is about making sure we understand what’s important to them, how they’re thinking, and allow them to grow at their pace rather than pushing them into something when they’re not ready,” she said.

Rohan Tobler recognised the difficulties faced by young Aboriginal athletes when having to leave family structures to pursue professional sporting careers. “Part of the partnership is about being able to educate the Kings on [Aboriginal culture],” he said. “Together, as partners, we can only strengthen, not just for Indigenous Australians but for all Australians.”

Leon, Rohan and Lorraine all agreed there is a real opportunity for an NCIE kid to become a professional player. But, with the understanding that professional sport is not everyone’s destiny, the dream goes beyond basketball with the broader aim of encouraging kids to make the most of their talents.

“We try to give them a well-rounded experience that shows them that sport is not always the answer,” Rohan said. “Indigenous Australians tend to push towards sports because that’s where most of our role models lie. But the possibility for kids to become a carpenter or a doctor is a lot higher than becoming a professional sportsman if they’re committed. It’s about getting them exposure to different things, showing them what’s out there, how to get fulfilment in life and how to make a living.”

Sydney Kings and NCIE ran a 3on3 basketball tournament for 12-17 year olds on November 2. The finals will be played at the Sydney Kings home game against the Cairns Taipans on November 8 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

Published in the South Sydney Herald, p. 16, November 2013.

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All Blacks the team to beat

Published in the South Sydney Herald, back page (p. 16), 1 April 2013.

Click here to see it online.

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Ada Lee

REDFERN: Lisa Williams, the first female president of the Redfern All Blacks (RABs), is optimistic that 2013 will be a better year for the proud rugby league club. The first match of the season kicks off on April 7. According to Ms Williams, with a lineup of local, young and committed players as well as some more experienced players, the RABs will be the team to beat in 2013.

In recent years, however, the All Blacks have been struggling to maintain a strong presence in the South Sydney Junior District Rugby League competition. “Due to the Club contending with the changing face of rugby league, the All Blacks have had to reassess how we operate,” Ms Williams said. “We lost a lot of players to other clubs in the competition [that] looked like they were more organised.”

Since becoming president about eight months ago, Ms Williams has utilised her background in project planning to add more structure to the club. “I think now players feel like they can go and play football and feel very happy that they are going to be supported.”

The proof is in the numbers, with old players returning and new players signing up for the increasingly competitive team. Whereas in the past few years the All Blacks would be lucky to have people show up two weeks before competition, Ms Williams says they’ve already had around 30 people at training every Tuesday and Thursday for four to six weeks before the season kicks off. “We also want to be a club that provides a platform to nurture our young talent through sports development and mentoring,” she said.

Former Parramatta Eel, Dean Widders, is the A Grade captain/coach this year and is currently working with the National Rugby League on youth sports development.

With a deep family history in Redfern, Ms Williams describes the RABs as the “cornerstone of the [Redfern] community”.

Ms Williams sees sport as one avenue to help individuals tackle social challenges. “The football club is one place people can go to escape,” she said. “One of the things that the Redfern community had to contend with for a number of years was that it was infamous for drug issues and alcohol issues. So, over the years, there were a number of people who were involved with the club that have worked really hard to remove that element from the club. The club now is the space for the promotion of health and fitness.”

The RABs might not have a lot of money or even their own home ground – often a key source of revenue for teams – but, Ms Williams says, “It’s not about the money [for Redfern players]. They have commitment to their community … Lots of games have been won on the back of [that] pride and loyalty compared to getting money.”

Emerging officially in 1944, the RABs is the oldest Aboriginal rugby league club in Australia. Ms Williams said one reason the RABs was originally an Aboriginal-only club was because Aborigines “couldn’t get a game anywhere else. So they didn’t want to open it up and then have Aboriginal people miss out.” But today, and for quite some time now, she points out, you don’t have to be black to play for the All Blacks.

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Not Too Pretty to Punch

Published in BULL Magazine, p. 36, March Issue 2013.

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Ada Lee enters the ring.

Jab, breathe. Hook, breathe. Duck. Block. Uppercut, breathe. Sweat drips from the boxer’s brow. Oomph! The sudden shock as the gloved fist collides with her cheekbone. Whoa, hold up—her? That’s right. Women’s boxing is a thing now. It has been for a while.

Historically, female boxers have faced several opponents—in and out of the ring. But recently they have made great progress in punching through the glass ceiling of boxing culture.

One of the most significant triumphs was the inclusion of women’s boxing in last year’s London Olympics. Nicola Adams, flyweight gold medallist, wrote in The Guardian that spectator enthusiasm should silence sceptics. “They have been cheering for us as much as the lads,” she wrote.

Local female boxers have also seen victories with NSW ending its 22-year ban on women’s boxing in 2008. In 2011, Sydney Uni Boxing Club (SUBxC) hosted female fighters for the first time at its annual Intercollege and Interfaculty Fight Night. Laura Hanlon, a first year MECO student at the time, observed wide-eyed. As a long-term admirer of combat sports, Hanlon was inspired to take up amateur boxing.

Twice a week, Hanlon and her fellow SUBxC athletes trained together in a one-hour high intensity workout. They’d face off against the punching bag, the trainers, and finally one another in a round robin sparring contest. Closer to the annual Fight Night, boxers raise the bar with an extra weekly session to prepare themselves physically and mentally. Fitness, discipline and focus are essential to winning.

Though Hanlon has never been knocked out, she has been punched in the face comparing it to the shock of hitting your head on the car door.

Hanlon was set to debut in last year’s Fight Night until her opponent pulled out with a shoulder injury. Because of SUBxC’s lack of female boxers, a replacement of matching height, weight and skill level could not be found for the disappointed Hanlon. Consequently, there were no female fights. This indicates a key problem in women’s boxing—low participation.

Hanlon labelled the notion that women are ‘too pretty to punch’ as “complete rubbish”. She sees herself as a boxer in her own right. “Whether you’re male or female, it doesn’t matter. It’s more the merits of what you achieve. Don’t be like, ‘oh that’s really good for a girl’”.

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