THREE Latrobe Valley locals will be making the trip to Graz, Austria in August after being named in the Australian national dodgeball squad for the 2024 World Dodgeball Championships.

Adam Kemna and Tegan Sventina were named in the mixed cloth squad in their first chance on the World stage.

Nekeisha Dillon, who played in the 2022 Championships in Edmonton, Canada, was selected for the women’s cloth side for Austria.

The August tournament sees 100 teams from more than 30 countries showcased in Graz for what the World Dodgeball Federation describes as “the biggest in the history of the sport”.

By contrast, the 2022 championships featured 67 teams from 15 countries.

Australia will be looking to knock off the host nation, alongside expected strong challengers from England, Northern Ireland, America, Canada and Malaysia.

The Valley trio represented Australia in the Asian Dodgeball Cup in Singapore last year, and achieved great results with silvers in the mixed and men’s (Kemna) and a gold for Dillon and Sventina in the women’s.

Australia’s inclusion in the tournament was a unique one, but could herald hopeful signs in their biggest test.

“We’re expecting that the World Dodgeball Championship is going to be quite a step up in difficulty,” Kemna said.

“From a personal perspective, worlds is going to be a lot more competitive obviously. Individually, I just want to really test myself and see what I can achieve on the world stage instead of just on a regional stage,” Sventina said.

The trio found each other as members of the Traralgon Trailblazers in the Latrobe Valley Dodgeball League and in Melbourne through the Victoria Dodgeball League.

Dillon began “throwing rocks” in 2010 in Traralgon’s first iteration of the sport’s local competition, which led to playing in sides in the Victoria Dodgeball League which brought her further recognition.

Sventina and Kemna played in the Melbourne Dodgeball League and transitioned as the Latrobe Valley Dodgeball League was founded.

The standards and expectations are, of course, set extremely high despite Dodgeball Australia sitting lower on the totem pole of economic access for athletes (the last two trips have been community and self-funded), meaning their anticipation and preparation for this opportunity runs entirely on their passion to the game.

“It’s really full-on, the quality of player in Australia is insanely high, so we are getting tested to our limits every single time we go down (to train),” Kemna said.

“All three of their skill levels have sky-rocketed because of the training that they’re doing regularly,” ADF board member Mitch Howell said.

Not only is there the early hour drives up the freeway on a Sunday, but also an understanding of the commitment to a high level of performance.

“You also need to be doing supplementary gym sessions, you need to be putting in prehab and rehab in that time as well so that you can actually get to Austria. A lot of time management,” Sventina said.

Dillon has also taken on the title of National Cloth Manager, seeing her handle all the nitty-gritty tasks off the court alongside fellow Valley homegrown Samantha Holcombe.

As a result, not only is Dillon throwing herself further into the organisation, but she’s also growing a deeper appreciation and perspective in the build-up to their championship run.

“(You see) the team start to gel, and you start to see not just different groups or states training, you get to see the squad come together, it’s really quite nice at that point,” Dillon said.

Now, if you’ve gotten this far and have been wondering ‘What the hell do you mean by cloth?’

Cloth is one of the two styles of ball used in dodgeball, with the other being foam.

Simply put, cloth is a harder rubber ball that triggers a much more intense and fast-paced contest, whilst foam utilises a squishier ball commonly found in the sports shed of your nearby primary school.

It also lends itself to different rules entirely. Cloth limits the number of balls to begin with and includes a neutral zone for teams that encourages pressing and aggressive game styles.

Dillon took up cloth in 2021 and brought it to her Trailblazer teammates.

“It just seemed to suit us. For whatever reason, our competitive ceiling in this particular discipline was just higher,” Kemna added.