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A team of 16 students has represented UNSW at the 21st Indigenous Uni Games, an annual event combining sport and culture, held in Brisbane this week.

“I’ve been two years in a row and what is great about it is that it is a really strong cultural experience as well as a networking experience, getting to meet other Indigenous students from across the country,” says UNSW team member Ryan Ahearne.

“I also went to the Games in Perth and I learnt so much about the Noongar (Perth/Western Australian) Indigenous culture. The opening and closing ceremonies were great,” he says.

More than 25 Australian universities fielded teams for the Games, which are designed to promote participation and fitness rather than elite sport, with mixed teams fielded for each of the sports played.

“Each team is required to play netball, basketball, touch football and volleyball so it is quite demanding. We are lucky to have a number of players who have played rep or state in one of these sports,” Ahearne says.

Both Ahearne and fellow team mate Grant Maling have represented NSW in men’s netball. While netball is the most popular team sport in Australia for women, men’s netball is also growing in popularity.

Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Unit Manager Michael Peachey says the UNSW team was very competitive, just missing out on making the finals in basketball and volleyball, and making the semi-finals in the netball. However, he says seeing the students make friends and have fun was just as important.

“I’m very proud of their efforts on the court and field but also their efforts at university and their studies. Some of the team have small injuries as well as a lot of soreness after four days of sport, but they have done really well,” he said.

The Indigenous Uni Games are followed by the Eastern University Games which will be held next week in Wollongong. Grant Maling will attend both events.

“I’ve been juggling coaching, managing and training the Indigenous Games team as well as training for the Eastern Uni Games, so it has been quite time consuming,” Maling says.

Maling says, growing up, he wasn’t fond of sport but started playing netball as well as Oztag and touch football with his cousins around four years ago.

“I joined the UNSW mixed netball team and we came second in the Eastern Uni Games. The coach then suggested I try out for Men’s Netball NSW.

“I ended up making the 23s team which was quite a surprise but I was ready to take it on. The training was intense but worth it because we ended up winning the national titles at the end of March, which was pretty exciting,” he says.

Both students say they would encourage their fellow students, both male and female, to consider university netball as a positive and fun way to get active.

Visit Arc sport for more details on playing sport at UNSW.