After a two year hiatus, UniSport Nationals returned last month, with nearly 6000 student athletes from around Australia converging on Perth for the week long tournament. MUBC Big V team-members Nat Low, Mateja McKenzie, Joel Rimes, and Matt Roseby competed alongside Club members Fabian Moehrke, Josh McNally, and Jakamo Sharpe on the University of Melbourne’s Men’s Team. The team’s coaching staff was comprised of Shawn King, Tim Bradford, and Dom Dom, all of whom were members of our 2021/22 Big V team who went 21-1 through the season, travelling to Perth as Head Coach, Assistant Coach, and Player Development Coach respectively.
The men got off to a promising start, going undefeated through their pool games to finish atop of their ladder. Kicking off competition against ACU, the Winged Victory walked away a 22-point victory and some much needed confidence heading into their second pool game against 2022 UBL Champions the University of Sydney. With near identical UniNationals and UBL squads for Melbourne, it was clear the team was playing with a chip on their shoulder after their defeat in Darlington earlier this year; after securing an early lead and approaching a 20-point differential with the interstate rivals, USyd made a strong third quarter rally, starting the fourth with only a three-point deficit to overcome. However, with strong performances from Joel Rimes and Lucas Soklevski, our squad pulled away in the last four minutes, landing a 12-point victory and 2-0 record in the tournament. With the last pool game against Bond University, Melbourne needed only a tie to take out top spot in their pool, but with their eyes on the medal and Bond’s impressive Nationals’ record, the consensus objective was a dominating win. The game remained nail bitingly close through all four quarters, with Melbourne’s scoring prowess going neck-and-neck with the impressive offensive skill set of Bond’s core unit. However, a full court press in the fourth quarter and lights-out free throw shooting in the crunch landed the squad a hair-rising three-point win.
Having finished top of their pool, Melbourne dodged Big Blue rivals and eventual silver medallist Monash University in their round of 16 game, instead coming up against the local University of Western Australia. With vocal support from University staff and athletes, the men got off to an exciting start, landing a double digit lead heading into half time. Despite a strong offensive showing from every member of the squad, UWA’s resilience and beyond-the-arc shooting abilities cut the lead to five heading into the final quarter. Facing elimination from medal contention and the potentiality of having to requalify for Division 1, the boys made an all-out push in the fourth; but a quartet of tough three pointers for the Perth natives and the seemingly cursed inability of the men to find the bottom of the net in the last five minutes left Melbourne walking off the court with a heart wrenching 12-point defeat.
With medal contention off the table, the boy’s turned their focus to a top-10 finish and automatic requalification for Division 1 next year. Facing off against Sydney’s International College of Management, Melbourne rotated through new five player combinations for much of the 40 minutes, showing no signs of defeat from their Round of 16 loss and breezing through to a 23-point victory.
Taking on neighbourly opponents Deakin University next, the boys were keen to lock in their place in Division 1 for next year. Despite a strong defensive showing from Deakin through the first three quarters, backed up by a consistent scoring regime, Melbourne pulled away in the fourth, gaining a 10-point margin early in the quarter and holding it through to the final buzzer.
With the last game back up against the USyd, fatigue was pushed aside for the rivalry rematch as the team eyed a 2-0 record against the Sydney siders. With remarkable defence from the entire squad and a lights out offensive showcase, the boys sent Sydney home holding a 20-point loss, finishing the tournament with an impressive 6-1 record.
Despite the only loss coming in brutal fashion and at a crucial time in the tournament, Melbourne landed a ninth-place finish and requalification for Division 1. While they fell short of a medal, it was a wildly memorable tournament that was well earnt after the two-year break. More importantly however, it was a proud send off for veteran UniGames competitor, MUBC Big V co-MVP, UniSport Male Student-Athlete of the Year, and 2021 UBL MVP Joel Rimes; after 6 UniNationals and 5 full Blues, Joel walks away as one of the University of Melbourne’s most accomplished student-athletes whose efforts in intervarsity basketball have been felt and appreciated throughout both the Club and University.