Graham Croker

When flanker Phil Waugh received the ultimate rugby honour of captaining the famous Barbarians in matches against England and Australia in June, he kicked off a remarkable month in Sydney University sport.

Waugh’s roller-coaster month included the two Barbarians matches, played at Twickenham and the Sydney Football Stadium, a return to club rugby with Sydney University for a win over Eastwood, and a recall to the Australian bench the following week for a win over Italy.

His recall to the Wallabies saw him link up again with Sydney University team-mates Dean Mumm and Luke Burgess.

Meanwhile, Sydney University Football Club was represented at the IRB Junior World Championships in Japan by hooker Nathan Charles, second-rower David McDuling, winger Peter Betham and fullback Clinton Sills. Australia finished fourth behind New Zealand, England and South Africa.

And on the home front, tighthead prop Laurie Weeks was named Super 14 Rookie of the Year.

When the Australian team for the 2009 World University Games was announced in June, Sydney University was represented by 16 athletes and four administrators. Sports Scholarship holder Matt Jaukovic, the 50m butterfly world record holder, headed Australia’s push for medals at the Games held in Belgrade, Serbia.

In a stellar 2008, Jaukovic set the new 50m butterfly mark, registered eight wins at World Short Course events and set a new Australian record for the 100m butterfly. Jaukovic, a commerce-law student, is the 2008 Sydney University Sportsman of the Year.

The University’s other representatives included Guy Phillips (archery compound), Jonathon Newton (swimming), Justin Merlino (athletics 110m hurdle), Kiera Shiels (women’s basketball), Keesja Gofers and Lea Barta (women’s water polo), Kiel Briggs, Christopher Todd and Yaegan Doran (men’s volleyball), Lachlan Renshaw (athletics 800m), Lara Tamsett (athletics 10 000m), Thomas Miller and Theodore Pasialis (swimming), Ricci Cheah (archery recurve) and Thomas Rickards (diving).

Sydney University’s other genuine medal hopes were Beijing Olympian Renshaw (Commerce), the 2008 Sydney University Men’s Blue of the Year, in the 800m, and Gofers (Architecture), the 2008 Sydney University Female Blue of the Year, in women’s water polo.

Others from Sydney University on the team included Michelle Nancarrow (Team General Manager), Sancha Donald (Team General Manager – former Deputy Director SUWSA), Maya Markovic (Sport Physician -Arena Sports Clinic) and Stephen Alderman (Assistant Coach – Swimming).

The University was also represented at the Games by a number of athletes who are part of our club sport program but study elsewhere. They included Robert Maitland (water polo), Sally Potocki (women’s basketball) and Melissa Hammond and Joanne Whitehorn (women’s water polo).

The Summer Universiade is one of the world’s largest multi-sport events and is often compared to the Olympics in size and scope – athletes at previous Universiades have produced World and Olympic records. The event is held every odd year and attracts over 10,000 participants from 170 countries.

The diverse achievements of elite athletes at Sydney University stretch to gymnastics and Sports Scholarship holder Prashanth Sellathurai, who won a silver medal on the men’s pommel horse at the World Cup in Moscow during June. Putting the disappointment of missing last year’s Olympics behind him, Sellathurai showed his class in the event, leading throughout the qualifying rounds before being overtaken by Russian Kristian Berki.

Sellathurai also came seventh on the rings after qualifying for the final in second place. The result was the first time he has finished in the top eight on the apparatus in a World Cup event. He is now looking to defend last year’s title in the Men’s Pommel Horse at the second FIG World Cup in Doha in September.

Meanwhile, Sydney University’s dual Olympian, diver Alex Croak, won a bronze medal in the women’s 10m platform at the Madrid Grand Prix. The result puts the former national gymnast on track for a strong showing at the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Rome in August.

Croak, another Sports Scholarship holder, displayed consistency throughout the final of the event, with a solid backward three-and-a-half securing her podium finish behind the Chinese pair of Hu Yadan and Liu Jiao.  The medal was all the more impressive given Croak’s interrupted preparation for the event. After injuring her wrist at training before the preliminary heat, she almost withdrew, but was determined to continue after missing much of the year’s earlier international competition when stuck in Mexico during the swine flu outbreak.

Still in the water, Sydney University’s Rob Maitland was selected captain of Australia at the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia.Maitland has had a long history with the Sydney University Water Polo Club since he joined in 2002.

In recent years, he won gold as part of the Australian team at the 2006 Commonwealth Championships, and in 2007 travelled to Spain to play for Mediterrani in the Spanish National League.After being a member of the Australian Men’s Water Polo team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Maitland returned to Spain for a second season.

Sydney University graduates Peter Montgomery and Debbie Watson were among nine athletes inducted into the Australian Water Polo Inc Hall of Fame at a function in June.

With four Olympics, four World Championships, a World Cup, and a total of 510 international matches under his belt, Montgomery’s name is inextricably linked with water polo. He was president of the Sydney University Water Polo Club and Sydney University Swim Club while he studied Law at the University from 1968 to 1971, and was awarded Blues for both sports. The Sydney Uni Sports and Aquatic Centre Pool, opened in 1997, is named in his honour.

Watson played a record 315 international water polo games for Australia and is the only player in history to win Olympic, World Championship and World Cup gold medals. She still plays a part in the Sydney University Women’s Water Polo Club alongside former team-mate Yvette Higgins.

During June, champion rower Bronwen Watson was named NSW Oarswomen of the Year – a wonderful achievement after coming back from a self-imposed retirement in 2006.

Sydney University rowers conquered the NSW Rowing Association Awards, with Matt Ryan and Francis Hegerty sharing the Oarsman of the Year title. SUBC was also awarded the Men’s Elite Shield, the Women’s Elite Shield, and the NSWRA Honours Recipient Trophy.

Seventeen Sydney University rowers are now preparing to represent Australia at the men’s and women’s World Championships in Poland, with Watson rowing in the women’s lightweight double scull.

Off the water, some Sydney University cricketers also had a busy June, with fast bowler Stuart Clark departing for England with the Australian team for another Ashes campaign.The Australian women’s team is also in England for an Ashes campaign, having played in the World Twenty20 championships during June.
Sydney University is represented by three players in the 14-women Australian squad. Universities Cricket Club and NSW captain Lisa Sthalekar and team-mate Alex Blackwell are in the squad along with Ellyse Perry, who is studying at the University.

Not a bad month for Sydney University athletes, and that’s just on the international level. And not a bad advertisement for the Elite Athlete Program. Roll on July.