It’s hard to believe, but it’s true: fistball has been played in Australia for 11 years. What began with a crazy idea from a fistball pioneer has grown steadily over the past few years – and continues to grow. Chris Milne reports on 2023, the year in which Fistball Australia celebrated its tenth birthday, and looks ahead to 2024, which has a highlight in February.

2023 was a major milestone year for the Fistball Federation of Australia. In February 2023, we celebrated the 10 years of Australian fistball (2013 – 2023), a huge achievement given the major challenges faced by a new small sporting association.

History of Fistball Australia

Despite the long and storied history of fistball around the world, prior to 2013 there had been no recorded history of it ever being organised in Australia.

This all changed early in 2013, when good mates Rolf “Godfister” Petersen and Richard “Buckfist” Williams – after some detailed and enthusiastic research into the sport – reached out to the IFA for help in setting up the sport in Australia… and in February 2013, the Fistball Federation of Australia (FiFA) was officially born.

The first officially documented game of fistball occurred on the 7th of February, 2013, when an enthusiastic group of men and women gathered at a park in Tullamarine, Victoria to form two teams and punch a volleyball over a rope in the hope that it resembled “fistball”.

Shortly after word of this successful fistball outing reached keen ears, official fistball teams were formed and the first ever Australian fistball tournament – aptly named Fistivus – was held at Royal Park in Parkville, Victoria on March 17, 2013. With four teams competing, the Fistroy Lions topped the Westside Mortal Wombats in final to become the inaugural Fistivus champions.

In January 2014, the IFA sent out an official IFA trainer & representative to both further educate our keen fistballers on the skills required to compete at an international level and to officially induct FiFA in the IFA, becoming the sixth continent officially recognised as playing fistball!

As a national team, Australia competed in their first ever international tournament in April 2013 – the 1st Asian Fistball Championships in Lahore, Pakistan, and sent their first ever men’s team to the Fistball World Championships in November 2015, in Cordoba, Argentina. The first women’s national team competed for the first time in the 2016 Women’s Fistball World Championships in Curitiba, Brazil.

Since those humble beginnings, the Fistball Federation of Australia has only continued to growth from strength to strength, spreading slowly across the nation while still consistently competing at an international level.

Great Moments in 2023

We paid tribute to the milestone by counting down our Top 10 moments in Australian fistball history on social media. Ultimately the #1 moment was judged to be the arrival of the first Australian national fistball team in Lahore airport in 2014, a surreal yet iconic moment in Australian fistball history.

In July 2023, we competed in our 3rd IFA Men’s Fistball World Championship, showing great promise with some strong wins and many highlight plays, before ultimately finishing 14th. With an average age of 28 (including 5 players under the age of 25), this was an exciting development for the future of Australian fistball.

In December 2023, we hosted the first Australian National Championships, featuring competitive teams from 4 states – Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. With this tournament set to become an annual fixture with rotating hosts, we hope that fistball will continue to strengthen outside of Victoria and grow into a truly national sport.

Over the February 17th-18th weekend this year, we will be sending an Australian men’s national team to Christchurch to compete in the Trans-Tasman Fistball Championships against New Zealand.

We will be sending a team consisting of an unprecedented three Australian state sides represented in the final squad – 4 from Victoria, 3 from New South Wales and 3 from Western Australia. Of the 10 players selected, 4 will be making their Australian national team debut on the international fistball stage after impressing at the National Championships., while the remaining 6 players will be returning from the 2023 World Championships team.

While Australia has played New Zealand many times since their first meeting in 2017, this will be only the third time the Trans-Tasman Fistball Championships has been held in its original format, and the first time since 2018.

The two teams will compete for the trophy by playing a series of 3 matches in a best-of-7 set format, with the matches taking place over 2 days. The winner not only gets to hold the perpetual trophy, but then also gets to eat the pavlova (a dessert with disputed origins between Australia and New Zealand!) off the engraved Pavlova Plate (see image).

The Australian men’s national team won the first two tournament series against New Zealand, winning 2-1 and 4-1 in 2017 and 2018 respectively, however the New Zealand men’s team has not lost to Australia since the last Trans-Tasman instalment (they are since 6-0 against Australia, with their most recent win at the 2023 Men’s Fistball World Championships) and will go into the 2024 series as the hot favourites.