1 October, Matt Roseby
This week marked the 15th anniversary of the 2006 Australian University Games (AUG) and the culmination of a historic national 'three-peat' for the University of Melbourne.
Highlighted by four national titles, it was the University’s consistent success across 43 events that would lead to triumph. Join us as we look back on the remarkable 2006 campaign and look toward the resumption of UniSport Nationals in 2022.
Silencing any doubt from 2004’s victory, the University dominated the 2005 Games in Brisbane with 22 top-three finishes. These victories set up the opportunity for the University to accomplish what remains as only the second three-peat in the Games’ history. Backed by the return of several 2005 Green and Gold recipients, including Mitch Anderson (Cycling), Choong We (Kenny) Ng (Men’s Squash), and Elissa Kent (nee MacLeod) (Netball), the University’s 2006 AUG squad was well prepared for success.
The University retained national titles in both Men’s Squash and Cycling, with Mitch Anderson helping the Cycling Team secure victory for the third consecutive Games. Sharing Green and Gold honours with four teammates in 2004, Anderson returned in 2005 to lead the University to another national title; this time as the only University cyclist to be awarded the esteemed Green and Gold. Anderson returned once more in 2006, again earning both a national title and Green and Gold selection, cementing the University as a cycling powerhouse and advancing the team’s monumental run of eight national titles in only nine years.
Anderson’s success may prove as little surprise to some, with the physiotherapy turned medicine student having built an extensive athletic resume during and after his time at the University; a 30-time Ironman finisher, Anderson won the Western Australia Ironman in 2005, appeared in eight Hawaiian Ironman World Championships, and broke both the 12 and 24-hour endurance cycling world records in 2017 and 2018.
Kenny Ng proved similarly dominant in the Men’s Squash event; securing the national title and receiving Green and Gold accolades three years in a row, Ng’s triumphant 2005-2007 run was crucial in the University’s 2006 success. Ng was recognised for his accomplishments in 2006 with the receipt of a Full Blue, rounding off a remarkable AUG performance that proved key in the University’s historic victory.
The AUG also saw the University build upon second-place finishes in Swimming and Women’s Volleyball the year prior to obtain national titles in 2006. The accomplishment is even more remarkable given there were no Green and Gold recipients on the team. Spectacular performances were seen from Amelia Tregear and Natalie Harbig with three first-place finishes each, Kate Findeisen with five, and Alanna Tanner with top-three finishes in a remarkable nine events. These efforts were matched with four top-two finishes in women’s relays at the Games. These achievements saw all four athletes rewarded with either Full or Half Blues in 2006.
The Women’s Volleyball team left no doubt surrounding their talent in 2006, ending the year as both regional and national champions. Led by Louise Bates and Neira Borcic, both of whom were Green and Gold recipients, the team’s success saw four athletes become Blues recipients following the Games. Bates’ success foresaw her prestigious athletic career, competing on the Australian women’s team numerous times since her 2006 performance for the University. Borcic also saw her efforts develop into an international career, competing as an Australian representative between 2008 and 2011.
The University’s 2006 success was not only a result of the incredible performances that led to four national titles, but also the astonishing number of teams coming just shy of the feat. With 27 teams placing in the top four, it was this consistent achievement that underpinned the University’s third straight AUG victory.
Coming off a regional championship and backed by Green and Gold recipients Elissa Kent (nee MacLeod) and Kate O’Connell, the Women’s Netball team fell just short of the title with a second-place finish. Kent went on to compete for the Queensland Firebirds and Melbourne Vixens in the ANZ Championship, before progressing through a string of successful coaching positions; she now leads the Melbourne University Lightning Netball Club as their Championship Head Coach, also serving as a development coach for the Victorian Institute of Sport.
The 15th anniversary of the 2006 AUG brought with it a collection of memories, from the adrenaline fuelled excitement of competition to the anxious wait for the point tallies; Rod Warnecke, current Sport Development Manager for the University who attended the Games, recalls counting up cumulative point scores in his hotel;
“I began to realise, with all the top-four finishes we scored across the Games, we might’ve won this thing”.
That excitement was finally realised as the University was announced as the overall champion, with University Sport captains Bryony Coleman and John Feddersen hoisting the famed trophy.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the cancellation of the AUG, now titled UniSport Nationals, in 2020 with plans for a 2021 return shut down earlier this year; now, 400 student athletes, coaches, and staff eagerly await another year to don the prestigious royal blue and chase the University’s seventh national championship.