After an event best described as a marathon of sprints, the Doncaster Demons edged out the Kingsford Mavericks to emerge as Division One champions of the 2021 Australian Dodgeball Invitational.
The two day tournament was a welcome return to competitive Dodgeball for many of the players who came from all over the country to face off against each other in the absence of the Asia Pacific Invitational, on hold due to COVID-19.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Reece Strong of New South Wales.
Strong, both an organiser and a competitor, was quick to extol the virtues of the Dodgeball community.
“It has elements of tennis, volleyball, baseball… it’s a hybrid of other sports.”
There are aspects to the sport that are, if not unique, then certainly special.
Players rely on an honour system of sorts, declaring themselves ‘out’.
“It’s a respectful community,” Strong continued.
“It’s very accepting.”
Jake Diffen of the WA Panthers enjoyed the step up in standard offered by the Invitational.
“It’s a huge difference from WA. the competitive league there is very small, the biggest difference is ball control, speed and there’s some [tactics] we haven’t encountered,” he said.
The tournament was a series of 20 minute games in which teams of six players face each other. Eliminating all opposition players wins a point.
Players can block the ball with another ball and a catch eliminates the throwing player while returning one of your team to play. It’s a fast, gymnastic game leaving little time to think, but making planning essential.
Following this is a grand final for each of the two divisions.
The Manly Minitaurs were victorious in Division Two after finishing the first day on top of their group.
The Demons were one of the favourites to win the Invitational as one of the most respected sides in Australia but the Mavericks lost no admirers in defeat.
“For us to have made it competitive, it doesn’t feel like a loss,” said proud captain and Australian International Carolyn Lee.
“It was the most exhilarating game I’ve ever played… it was a great honour playing against them.”
They had been beaten 5-2 in the round robin stages by the Demons and have now gone the distance against the champions.
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Playing the Moment
It was a see-sawing contest, the vocal crowd feeling every hit, and living every catch and body swerve.
The Demons went out to an early lead winning the first game before the Mavericks took out the second match to level things at 1-1 following a couple of brilliant catches by Lee.
Demons captain Niko Seneviratne eliminated two Mavericks and restored his side’s lead before they extended it out to 3-1. Early chaos in the next match saw a hit and a catch within seconds to give the Demons an advantage but the Mavericks rallied to win, closing in the score at 3-2.
Despite losing their captain early in the next contest the Demons entered half time 4-2 up.
The Mavericks came out strong in the second half to bring it back to 4-4 after two games. A combination of crowd raising blocks and catches brought them level.
The Demons jumped out to a 6-4 lead with Anthony Leung contorting in a move straight out of The Matrix to avoid a rocket.
They went on to take out the next game after the Mavericks brought it back to 7-5.
Doncaster were favourites on day one for a reason and have a winning tradition, entering every encounter with a clear plan.
They keep themselves fresh with substitutions after what is effectively a beep test while jumping, rolling and throwing.
‘One player- one point’ is their mantra, according to Seneviratne.
“We focus as a team on getting one player out at a time, play the moment,” he said.
They were the most efficient side over the course of the weekend and this was evident in the final.
It’s Good To Be Back
Samantha Helen was delighted with the weekend as organiser.
“The focus was on reconnecting and re-engaging, it’s a really good community here.”
Originally planned for February, the event was delayed until interstate travel could confidently commence.
The event was not a replacement for the annual Asia-Pacific International but a way to get people back playing.
It is easy to see why they were all so eager to reunite. It’s a passionate yet supportive atmosphere. fans and teams cheer loudly but there is no blame when things go wrong. Teams mingle and chat between games but once they are on court they play to win.
The Division Two winners were declared mid-way through the final and all teams stopped to applaud. The opposing final teams posed for a group photo, all smiles, post-game.
The Invitational was a huge success. Organisers had hoped to get 18 teams but capped applicants after huge interest.
This is a growing sport and deserves to be.
“One thing that makes it great is that it’s accessible” says Helen, “it’s a really welcoming community.”
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