The Australian Gateball Championships were held on 7th to 10th September at the Wodonga Tennis Centre. The courts were curated by Shayne Ried of the Wodonga Tennis Centre and marked out with assistance from Bruce McAlister, Tournament Referee and Keith Chur-Hansen, Assistant Tournament Referee. Practice courts were available each day commencing from Wednesday 6th September.
The Doubles event was played on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th September. While Thursday was a cooler day, the sun was out and showed us all how lovely early spring can be. There were 32 teams from around Australia, Japan and India competing in the Doubles event with the event played in 8 blocks of four teams. The top two teams from each block proceeded to a Round of 16, with the winners from the Round of 16, competing in the quarter finals in the last match on Thursday afternoon.
The semi-finals and final was played on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Friday was not good to us, with rain and sleet and a bitterly cold wind for most of the day with players requiring wet weather gear.
Despite the weather, the Doubles final was an exciting close match played between Glen and Kristina Whitehead of Canberra and Sakai Kono and Yoshihiko Karaue of Japan. The Japanese team were the eventual winners with a score of 11 to 10. The Doubles winners were presented their trophies by World Gateball Union President, Keiichi Imagawa and Mr Keith McLeod, the first appointed Gateball Australia Coordinator.
The official opening ceremony for the event followed the Doubles final and while it continued to rain, the ceremony that was planned for outdoors, quickly moved indoors. The Sing Australia Wodonga choir sang our national anthem and a selection of Australian songs for us. Wodonga Croquet Club President Bev Zuber welcomed players to the venue, a message from Federal Member for Indi, Dr Helen Haines, was shared, State MP for Albury Mr Justin Clancy welcomed the players to the region and the Wodonga Mayor Ron Mildren spoke and officially opened the ceremony by hitting a ball through the ceremonial gate. Mr Keiichi Imagawa spoke of how wonderful it was to see the growth of Gateball in Australia and to see old friends again.
The start of the team games on Friday afternoon was wet and dreary but Saturday brought a much better day. Sixteen (16) teams competed in two blocks of 8, with play continuing over to Sunday. The standard of play was high and a lot of games were decided by only one or two points. It seems that the Captain’s Course that was held earlier in May has inspired team captains and has raised the standard of play for Australia teams.
The final was a close match between Rockhampton and Kew White that ended in a draw with both teams on a score of 11. A shoot out was required to decide the winner, the first time an Australian Championship Team event has been decided by a shoot out. Congratulations to the winners, Kew White, who won the shoot out with a score of 5-4.
One of the wonderful things that Gateball offers is the opportunity to play in mixed teams of all ages, often with family members. Both the Kew and Rockhampton teams and many others, had wonderful combinations of mothers, fathers,sons, daughters, husbands and wives and other family members playing in the same team. Gateball really is a unique sport in that way and something we are all very proud of.
On Saturday evening, at the Commercial Club in Albury, we celebrated Gateball Australia’s 20th anniversary of membership of the World Gateball Union. Past ACA President, Peter Tavender, Keith McLeod, the first appointed Gateball Australia Coordinator and Keiichi Imagawa, President of the World Gateball Union spoke about the path to becoming a World Gateball Union member. Keiichi was presented with a gift from Australia, by ACA Board Gateball Representative Barbara Northcott. The evening was a wonderful opportunity for old friends to connect and for the Gateball community to celebrate the growth of the sport in Australia.
The Championship and dinner would not have come together without the local support offered by the members of the Albury-Howlong team and especially Assistant Tournament Manager, Kathie Maloney, Kevin Maloney, Geoff and Veronica Richardson. First aid and morning tea was provided by volunteers from Wodonga Croquet Club who are located at the Wodonga Tennis Centre and lunches were catered by the Wodonga Tennis Centre volunteers. We thank all the volunteers who assisted us and especially Gerald from the Wodonga Croquet Club who worked tirelessly along side us for the whole event and to Craig Farrar, the Tennis Centre President, who was our liaison for the event and his wife, Frances, who both went above and beyond to make our event wonderful. We thank all the volunteer referees including our Tournament Referee Bruce McAlister and Assistant Tournament referee, Keith Chur-Hansen.
Thank you to all the photographers who shared their photos and especially Keiichi Imagawa, Rita Jenkins and Stephen Greenway and to the wonderful creatives in our sport who made the program and all the other aspects of the event so fantastic. Thank you to Malcolm Grant for doing Gateball Scores for us and to Peter Freer who helped set up the knockout phases on Gateball Scores.
Thank you also to all our wonderful sponsors, Wodonga Council, Nichiyo, Crazy Arms, Gateball Solutions, Albury Visitor Centre, Bunnings Albury and Bunnings Wodonga, The Great Australian Sign Company and Federal Member for Indi Dr Helen Haines and State Member Bill Tilley who provided donations for prizes and team bags.
You can see all the photos of the event on the Gateball Australia Facebook page.
You can read more about Gateball and the event on the Gateball Australia website.