Ul­ti­mate sport­ing sib­lings

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

When Cam­borne’s Neal sib­lings play fris­bee on the beach, they at­tract some stares.

Broth­ers An­drew and Aaron, and their sis­ter Bekah, are no week­end am­a­teurs – all are in Osaka, Ja­pan this week com­pet­ing for New Zealand in their sport, ul­ti­mate fris­bee. An­other sis­ter, Ta­ma­rah, qual­i­fied for the cham­pi­onships but with­drew for fi­nan­cial rea­sons.

The fam­ily got hooked on fris­bee when An­drew, 26, signed up to the sport at a Vic­to­ria Univer­sity clubs day in 2005.

‘‘I thought, ‘that couldn’t be too hard’. I went along and it was re­ally fun,’’ he says.

An­drew went on to be­come pres­i­dent of the Welling­ton Ul­ti­mate Fris­bee ex­ec­u­tive and was voted Welling­ton’s best male player in 2010 and 2012 and most val­ued player in 2011. His sib­lings took to the sport just as en­thu­si­as­ti­cally.

Bekah, 23, is now an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber and is set­ting up a ‘‘fris­bee in schools’’ pro­gramme, and Aaron, 21, sin­gle-hand­edly re­vived the sport at Can­ter­bury Univer­sity. He was New Zealand’s un­der-23 cap­tain last year.

Fris­bee is such a pre-oc­cu­pa­tion for the sib­lings that their mother has banned the topic at meal­times.

‘‘Mum gets sick of us al­ways talk­ing about it,’’ An­drew says.

Ul­ti­mate fris­bee, sim­ply called ‘‘ ul­ti­mate’’ by play­ers, was in­vented in the United States in 1968 and now counts five mil­lion play­ers in Amer­ica. It’s a grow­ing sport in New Zealand – there are about 1000 play­ers in New Zealand, 600 of them in Welling­ton.

The rules are sim­i­lar to net­ball and Amer­i­can football. Teams of seven play­ers score at end zones of a field but can­not run while in pos­ses­sion of the fris­bee.

‘‘Like football, it’s a beau­ti­ful game to watch. The way the disc flies is beau­ti­ful,’’ Aaron says.

Also like football, ul­ti­mate is not as easy as it looks, he says. Any­one can throw a fris­bee but am­a­teurs find it hard to throw strong and ac­cu­rate serves, es­pe­cially fore­hand.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple can flick it but to ac­tu­ally get a good throw, it does feel quite weird.’’

Hav­ing an un­usual skill is part of the at­trac­tion for Bekah.

‘‘It’s nice that not ev­ery­one can do it. Throw­ing a fris­bee takes a lit­tle bit of time to learn.’’

Bekah will com­pete in women’s team Whaitiri, while both broth­ers will play in the NZ Open team. Amer­ica, Ja­pan, Canada and Aus­tralia will be the tough­est com­pe­ti­tion, the sib­lings reckon.

‘‘It’ll be a pretty great ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ Bekah says.

Fris­bee fling: Cam­borne sib­lings Aaron, Bekah and An­drew Neal are in Ja­pan this week rep­re­sent­ing New Zealand in their un­usual sport, ul­ti­mate fris­bee.

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