Sport brought Jack McDougall to Canberra years ago, and it’s one of the things he still enjoys most about living here.
Born in Dubbo, Jack grew up playing rugby league in country New South Wales, and through contacts he made at the rugby club, ended up moving to Canberra to play while finishing high school.
He attended Erindale College, with a plan to participate in the NRL School to Work program upon graduating, but on the last day of his Year 12 exams decided to undertake a plumbing apprenticeship instead.
After eight months of plumbing, Jack decided to investigate how to fulfil his passion for teaching.
“I thought ‘I can’t do this, I need to be in schools’, so I become an LSA (Learning Support Assistant),” Jack says.
“I had a great time and finally realised it is time to actually do teaching – so I went straight to UC, I didn’t even think of going anywhere else.”
Jack also continues to play footy locally and has previously spent time training with the Canberra Raiders Jersey Flegg (Under 21s) team – meaning much of his time is dedicated to sport – and he loves every minute of it.
Since beginning at UC at the start of 2023, Jack has found himself making the most of his time at uni. He’s a regular visitor to the Ngunnawal Centre and through his friendships and connections there is a member of UC’s Indigenous Nationals and Indigenous Intervarsity sporting teams.
“I usually try to keep to myself, but my brother actually came into the Ngunnawal Centre and threw me under the bus by saying I was half decent at sport,” Jack says.
“So, they encouraged me to join the Indigenous Nationals team and after a few weeks of persistence – and me providing every excuse under the sun – eventually I folded.”
This week, Jack is in Melbourne with the rest of the team and Indigenous athletes from across the country competing in the UniSport Indigenous Nationals tournament. The team will compete in basketball, netball, touch football and volleyball over the course of the week, while also participating in social events with teams from other universities.
“I knew it was going to be good fun, but I didn’t know it was going to be that much fun, that’s for sure,” Jack says.
“The team is a real band of misfits and noone is excellent at any of the sports, some people don’t even like sports so it’s funny to see the different dynamics in the team, and it means we can all just chill out and have fun – nobody has pressure on them.”
The unique, relaxed environment surrounding the Indigenous Nationals and Indigenous Intervarsity competitions mean that winning isn’t the important thing – it’s all about making friends, connecting with students from other universities and having fun.
“There’s a real sense of unity within the teams and people that probably don’t care too much about the sport,” Jack says.
“But they’re there for a good time and to have a laugh … which I think is really the foundation of sport.”
Words by Elly Mackay. Photos by Tyler Cherry and supplied.