Uni athletes strap up and step up for Indigenous Games

The festival atmosphere brings together students from around Australia.

University athletes from around the country will descend on the University of Western Australia this month for the 24th Indigenous Games.

The four-day event showcases four mixed-gender sports: touch football, basketball, netball and volleyball.

Around 30 teams are expected to compete creating one of the largest Indigenous multi-sport events in the country.

The festival atmosphere brings together students and athlete Wendi Torres said she has made some life-long friends from the experience.

“I started my degree in 2016 and I’ve been participating since 2017 …[I] travelled to Deakin Uni in Geelong and then Macquarie Uni last year,” Torres said.

“It was awesome for me to mingle with our Indigenous students and form those bonds and connections. Now I’ve made some close friends for life.”

Two athletes will be selected after the event for $5,000 scholarships to help them pursue their chosen sport.

But Torres, who grew up in Broome, WA, said the value of the event is in celebration of Indigenous culture.

“It’s a great for young Indigenous students to travel. For some of us, we’re the first people in our families to go to uni, so to make those connections with other Indigenous students around the country is invaluable,” she said.

“Sport and exercise put you in that space to feed off everyone’s energy. It’s a great feeling to know you have people by your side that support you.”

Last year a member of Torres’ team tore a tendon in his finger a week before their flight to Melbourne. He still travelled because it was too late to change the flights.

The athlete didn’t get to compete in the touch football until the final match, when the coach finally relented.

“Everyone was protecting his finger saying, ‘No you will hurt it’. He was really itching to play touch,” Torres said.

“The team manager said ‘alright, you can play. You can go on the wing.’”

“He got out there and I was next to him with three minutes to go. The person in the middle threw the ball to me and the two defenders were coming in. I threw it to him, and he popped it down. We won the game.”

“It felt like such a big moment. It helped him enjoy the event more than he would have otherwise.”

The event starts on June 23 and runs for four days.

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