In my career as a photographer and in life in general, I would not say that I am a sports enthusiast by any means. I have partaken in sports throughout school such as Water Polo and Swim, and I've gone to a few baseball games, basketball games and football (american) games. I've never been one to follow sports or photograph them much, but recently I was up in Christchurch for work, visiting some good friends of mine and I was introduced to the wonderful world of Fistball. Yes. Fistball. For those that have not heard of this sport, let me provide a little historical background for you. According to Wikipedia, when exactly the game of Fistball was "invented", is not known. What is certain, however, is that the roots lie in the southern part of Europe, perhaps in Italy. The earliest known written mention of the game is by Roman Emperor Gordian III and dates to the year 240. Rules for an Italian version of Fistball were recorded by Antonius Scaiono in 1555. And from there, this fabulous game of fisting made it's way through to Germany where it appears they have been reigning champions for a while.
Over two years ago, a friend of Rach's sister decided he wanted to play a sport for NZ in his life time. Now this friend was aware that as far as the current sports that are played in New Zealand goes, he wasn’t likely to be picked for one of the teams, so he roped in the help of Google, and looked up obscure sports played elsewhere in the world that NZ didn’t already have a team for – and when he found Fistball it was an obvious choice. He spread the word that he was keen to put together a team, and eventually they had enough curious people for both a womens and a mens team. They starting catching up once a week for practices/games, and eventually, a bunch of hilarious humans from Melbourne found out and decided they too wanted to play for their country in a sport, so put together mens and womens teams also. The first Trans-Tasman cup took place in Melbourne in 2017, both teams had started playing out of humour and a bit of fun, but took playing for their countries very seriously, and went hard on the practising and team work. The NZ women came out the victors, and the Aussie’s came out with the gold for the men. The evening they found out that Rach's sister was a NZ champ in a sport the high 5s were enthusiastic, and the beers tasted like victory. The second Trans-Tasman cup was held in Christchurch earlier this year – this is where Rach and her family (all from Winton), witnessed Fistball for the first time, and the results ended up the same as the year previous. The NZ team ran a ridiculously professional tournament, everything was highly organised and well thought out, from the venue, to team uniforms, spectator areas, bar at the ready, food for both players and supporters, and a live stream for the Europeans (players from Germany and Austria genuinely begged to be able to watch the 2nd Trans-Tasman cup in one of their beloved sports). Rach notes that she laughed pretty much the entire 2 days – you can imagine with a name like Fistball that the commentary for the games was hilarious (think like the ‘Alternative Cricket Commentary’ with Leigh Hart etc), not to mention the nicknames of the players… also the game itself – you can’t help but get into it, it’s a lot like volleyball, played mainly outdoors on a larger field, with a slightly harder ball, only 5 on at a time, all hits have to be with a closed fist (no setting/open palm spiking), and a bounce is allowed between each hit.
My dear friend, Rach Engel, who also helped me compile my research and writing for this wee article invited me along to one of their games/practices a few weeks ago. I couldn't resist and of course brought my camera along. I never knew such an obscure sport would bring about so much joy in my life. This is a bit of a family affair, as Rach's sister, sister's partner, brother and cousin play on the same team which is called the Magical Fistery Tour. What a great way to spend quality family time in a team sport such as Fistball. I had the opportunity to join in on the practice session before the games started just to see how this sport is played. It's actually quite fun! As the practice came to and end, the teams lined up across from each other and began to do a bit of trash talk back and forth, trying to rile each other up and get the competitive element of fisting in full swing. That said, they do also exhibit excellent sportsmanship and high five each other when crossing sides at the end of each match. Sitting on the sidelines and listening to and joining in on the commentary, I don't think I stopped laughing or giggling. But aside from the humour involved, it's a very captivating sport and easy to follow. You do have to keep your wits about you as well, not only for the punchlines, but also so you don't get knocked out by the ball coming at you when you are taking photos on the sidelines. This sport definitely keeps you on your toes!
Earlier this year, the New Zealand womens team that Rach's sister is on had the opportunity to play at the World Champs in Austria even! They practice multiple times a week, and there is currently a Canterbury Fistball league with multiple teams involved, it has grown in popularity due to the story of the people who started it, and the fun of playing the game itself. The combination of the ingenuity, the stellar sense of humour within the organising group, and the determination to actually go hard and represent is why I felt it was worth documenting this amazing sport, and am now the official photographer for the Magical Fistery Tour.
I hope you enjoy a few photos from my first encounter into the world of competitive fisting. :)