Dodgeball on the world stage

Big stage: Local dodgeballers Ruby Callaghan and Nekeisha Dillon are preparing to fly out to Canada to compete in the World Dodgeball Championships. photograph liam durkin



YES, people do play dodgeball in the Valley.
Some play it pretty well in fact … international-standard well.
Local pair Nekeisha Dillon and Ruby Callaghan belong to this group, and are preparing to take part in the World Dodgeball Championships in Canada this August.
Dillon and Callaghan have both climbed through the ranks, impressing national selectors with their performances at state level in the Victorian Dodgeball League, representing the Traralgon Trailblazers.
As the name suggests, Dillon and Callaghan are blazing a trail for the sport in Gippsland, out to show it is certainly not just something played in P.E. class.
Australia won’t be the only country represented by Traralgon at the World Championships, as Callaghan is playing for her native New Zealand.
Getting technical for a moment, Dillon is playing for Australia Women Cloth, and Callaghan for New Zealand Foam. Cloth and foam being the types of dodgeballs being used by the respective teams.
Yes, there are different types of dodgeballs as well.
Those who think dodgeball is still a novelty sport might want to think again – there will be 60 countries competing at the World Championships.
For Dillon, who got the call up to the national team in April, preparation has included two weekend camps and a number of Sunday training sessions before flying out.
“The gravity of the situation still hasn’t set in … representing the country to play,” she said.
“It is massive, it is the biggest World Dodgeball Championships they have ever hosted.”
Dillon will be hoping to showcase her skills in Canada, and see a number of opponents dismissed courtesy of a throw that has been clocked at 80 kilometres an hour.
The Traralgon Trailblazer said she was expecting competition to be strong from Great Britain and Austria in the cloth category, and from the host nation and America in the foam.
Speaking of foam, that will be the type of ball Callaghan will be throwing and avoiding playing for New Zealand.
As Callaghan explained, the Trans-Tasman friendship was partly to thank for her selection in the New Zealand team.
“I moved here when I was eight. The captain of the Trailblazers tagged me in a post about New Zealand looking for people to join. The smaller the country, the smaller the pool of people, so they were struggling to find people to be on the teams so they put it out to the people living in Australia,” she said.
“I applied, not thinking I would get in, but I applied for it, sent them footage, and got in.
“When I got the message, I didn’t believe it at first. I had to show my family and ask ‘does this say what I think it says?’
“It took a long time to feel real, but now it is real. I am scared and excited at the same time, I can’t wait.”
Things have certainly progressed quickly for Callaghan, who confessed to finding dodgeball ‘by accident’, but said it would be an honour to represent her county of birth nonetheless.
“I’ve played a lot of sports, netball, hockey, soccer, and I can tell you I’ve never gone to state level let alone represent Australia or New Zealand in any of those,” she said.
Callaghan won’t have to worry about facing up against Dillon, as the pair are competing in different disciplines.
“Which is a shame because it would be pretty cool,” Callaghan said.
“We’ll be there to cheer each other on, we’ll be screaming at each other – with love.”
Regardless of what happens at the championships, by taking dodgeball from Traralgon onto the world stage, Callaghan and Dillon are both hopeful the game can become recognised as a genuine sport in the eyes of most sporting pundits.
“Australia has AFL, New Zealand has rugby. Dodgeball in either country is not very well known but I think it is really fun to watch,” Callaghan said.
“It is a sport people can follow. You don’t really need to know a lot of the rules beforehand.
“You look at table tennis, that is something we play at parties but that is played on a professional level. People who do that are amazing, have really good hand-eye coordination, are really fit; just because you can play it in your backyard doesn’t negate what it can be.”
Dodgeball is played socially in the Latrobe Valley at the Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium.
Those interested in getting involved can visit the Latrobe Valley Dodgeball League website.
The basic rules are easy enough to understand: Get hit by a ball – you’re out. Catch a ball that is thrown at you – they’re out, and another player from your team gets to come back into the game.
It’s just like the movie – although don’t mention it in front of regular dodgeball players.