I donned my trench coat, puffed my pipe and headed down to the field.
Amidst our institution’s hallowed halls of reading, studying, and academia there is a lesser spotted, more physical way to spend your time at the University of Auckland. Sport. Through exhaustive Googling I’ve found that at the University you can play a range of sports, either socially, representing the University, or representing your faculty. But this is not an ad, it is an exhuming of a hidden sporting culture.
Every year, the Interfaculty Sports Championship takes place. You can represent giants of the game such as the Arts Alligators, the Engineering Eagles, or the slightly less eloquent Creative Arts and Industries Narwhals. Shakespearean, I know! Far from the lustre and fame afforded to American College athletes, sportspeople here at Uni have lost the notability and appreciation held for them at High School assemblies. Their slow fade into tertiary obscurity, has seen them relegated into reluctant captaincy of the Education and Social Work Doggies indoor cricket side. I tracked down one of these Ozymandian athletes, and sat down with him, hoping to find out more about the University’s obscure sporting identity.
Our athlete of focus is a long-term rower, who for reasons of investigative integrity we will call Booth. A bona fide star, he’s one of the University’s finest, and a key part of the Auckland University Boat Club (AUBC) for four years now. He joined the team at Clubs Expo in his first year because his friends told him to, as any committed sports person would. In a secure locale, I met with Booth, and dug deep to discover more about these athletes that walk amongst us.
Do you row just for fun, or is there some pride involved?
Rowing at Uni is all about enjoying sport with your mates. Except for before National Champs, where we all knuckle down and put in some mahi for a month to try to win the prestigious Hebberly Shield.
Does anyone actually come to watch you compete?
Nope. Bugger all spectators because Nationals are never in Auckland.
Interesting…very interesting. Booth appears relatively normal so far, maybe my assumptions were wrong, No surely not! By the time this investigation is over, his facade will be removed and his sordid true nature revealed.
Are there any inter-University rivalries, an El Educationo per se, or ever any tension at these events?
There aren’t any vicious Uni rivalries, but the fight for the Hebberly Shield gets pretty hectic. By tradition, The Hebberly Shield is presented to the youngest person in the winning crew. After this, anyone can steal the shield, often ending up with some poor first-year sprinting to their van as their team try to fend off five other Universities worth of blokes hunting them down.
Have you ever had to sacrifice an assignment for sport?
I’ve never had to sacrifice an assignment. The sports department is pretty good at getting us extensions if we miss anything.
I’m still searching for the University’s dirty sporting underbelly. However, so far it appears fun and you get extensions! Makes a lot better of an excuse than my darling late grandmother who passed away this year, and the year prior, and the year prior to that. RIP Nan x.
Do you feel cared for as a University athlete?
The Uni is pretty good at helping us out when we need it. The sporting faculty often asks how we’re going, so yeah I do feel appreciated. AUBC gave me the chance to go and represent New Zealand Universities against Australia so I felt really rewarded.
Can I join the team?
Fuck off, nerd.
That concludes this examination of our University’s veiled sporting identity. Where I expected a trail of conspiracy, cover-ups, and downright suspect behaviour; instead I found a kind-hearted, humble, and authentic University athlete in the form of rower Booth.
If his testimony is to be believed, then we can infer that sport at Uni is alive and well,. aAlbeit under recognised., Tthese athletes are to be admired, for both their commitment and their anonymous integrity. So why don’t we be like Booth, hop in that metaphorical row-boat and head off in search of unsung glory. Maybe one day you’ll win your own Hebberly Shield.