UNSW's Quirkiest Sports

While we often hear about the traditional sports like football, cricket and netball taking place around campus, there are some lesser known teams that are growing in numbers and making quite a splash at UNSW – especially the rising cohort of underwater athletes! We share some of our most popular ‘quirky’ sports and what they involve.

Ultimate Frisbee

UNSW Quidditch Society team – ‘Snapes on a Plane’ (Image: Facebook)UNSW Quidditch Society team – ‘Snapes on a Plane’ (Image: Facebook)

Some days it’s not the sound of leather on willow echoing across the sports grounds at UNSW, but people yelling “Up!”, “Disc in”, “Pick” and other phrases that can sound out of place even to the most avid sports fan.

These are the sounds of Ultimate Frisbee, a non-contact team sport played with a Frisbee, which combines elements of netball, touch football, and grid-iron into a fast paced, athletic sport. Although growing in popularity around the world, it’s not something creeps into the collective sporting consciousness all that often.

As a result, it’s a sport that its participants often find themselves explaining and qualifying “Yes, it is a real sport”, “No there are no dogs on the team”, “That’s right, no referees”.

And yes, that’s right – there are no referees.

Ultimate is a self-refereed sport, meaning the players call fouls, picks (which are similar to obstructions in the rugby codes) and travels against their opponents.

In the case of a dispute, the opposition player calls “contested”. If it cannot be resolved by the players on the field, the frisbee goes back to the player who threw it before the call was made, as if the incident had never occurred, and play resumes.

UNSW Ultimate (or the ‘Stubbies’ as they are colloquially known) are a friendly and inclusive club who are always willing induct new people into the cult of the disc. Stubbies representative Don Do loves seeing new faces at the club and giving players of all levels the chance to compete in Ultimate.

“Every year, our club sends off as many teams as possible to Bathurst Stampede,” he said. “It's often the rookies' first taste of competitive Ultimate and we try and develop their skills as much as possible.

“This year, we had three teams competing – we try to sell this as the most fun tournament of the year and with around 50 people crammed into one house, it always is!”

Non-traditional sports such as Ultimate are a great way to attract those who want to get active but weren’t necessarily the athletic type in high school.

The playing field is often much more level and beginners aren’t as stressed about being the only newbie and playing against people who have been building the specific skills since early childhood.

Do recognises the role his sport can play and stresses the importance of ensuring the pathway is fun and social, especially for those who are just getting into it.

“Social trainings are designed to create a relaxed environment where anyone can rock up and go for a throw and run and we often play various Ultimate-related games like 4-corners, hotbox, fris-soccer, base-frisbee and such.”


UNSW Ultimate Club – ‘The Stubbies’ (Image: Facebook)

Ultimate Frisbee isn’t the only “under the radar” sport going on at UNSW. Some other clubs and societies attracting current students include the Outdoors Club, who participate in everything from bush-walking to canyoning, the Pokemon Society, LegoSoc, Minecraft Society, the Boardgames and RPG (Role-Playing Games) Society and of course the Quidditch Society.

Based on the sport created by author JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series, this ground-bound version has become popular worldwide.

The UNSW team ‘Snapes on a Plane’ has been playing Quidditch since early 2011 and now competes against other universities at monthly ‘Triwizard tournaments’.

The goal of the UNSW Quidditch Society is to promote communication and provide a sociable environment to foster a sense of community between students, Harry Potter fans and Quidditch enthusiasts alike.

The Harry Potter enthusiasts are also keen to provide members with assistance to develop events, with any justifiable relation to the fictional wizard books providing a fun platform for likeminded individuals to bond over the series. Many of the students competing in Quidditch sing the praises of Society for providing them a place to comfortably engage in sporting activity in a way they can relate to on multiple levels.

“Quidditch provides me with a place where I can run, tackle, hit the ground and launch myself at people” – Philip Hamilton.

“Before I joined UNSW Quidditch, I couldn’t throw a ball. Now I can definitely throw a ball.” – Sylvia Chin

Underwater Rugby

UNSW Underwater Rugby Club – ‘The Whales’ (Image: Arc)

If that’s not an exciting enough range of sports and activities to keep today’s students occupied, UNSW has also made forays into the world of Underwater Rugby.

Underwater rugby is an action-packed, 3D, weightless sport played with a water-filled ball, mask and snorkel in a swimming pool. Participants must hold their breath, dive down and tackle opponents to score a goal in the basket at the bottom of the pool.

Underwater rugby was invented by German divers looking for a way to keep fit in winter but has now spread across the world. The team at UNSW (the ‘Whales’) was the first in Australia and the leaders of the team provide great coaching and pathways for beginners to join the sport.

The club holds regular sessions in pools ranging from three metres to five metres in depth and even some ocean games on summer afternoons.

At the elite end of the spectrum, the Whales are heading to the world championships in Berlin in November and have been hard at work at every Decathlon and Bunnings barbeque going to raise the much needed funds for their trip.

While these sports haven’t yet made prime time television coverage, they are certainly on the up and it may not be long before these young athletes are throwing, riding or diving their way on to screens across Australia.