Waltzing with the Matildas

The Old Ignatians' Union recently held their Annual Sports Lunch, a major fundraiser for the Riverview Bursary. This was written for the occasion.


By Fr Quyen Vu, Provincial, The Society of Jesus in Australia

You can practise your slice tennis backhand until it’s on par with your crosscourt forehand.

You can learn how to swing a scuffed old cricket ball as accurately as you deliver a yorker with a shiny new Kookaburra.

You can be taught those and many more skills, but has anyone actually taught you the two most difficult lessons to master?

The first is winning with grace and humility.

The second is losing with grace and humility.

In both these scenarios, you not only grow as a human being, but you inspire others who follow in your footsteps. In this context, I must mention the Riverview First VIII, who clinched the Schoolboy crown at the 2023 National Championships. Members of that crew are present here today, as is their coach and MIC of Rowing, Dan Noonan (OR 1997).

That crew exhibited grace and humility as well as skill, discipline and exemplary teamwork when winning local regattas and the national title. Much of that would have been thanks to Dan, a triple Olympian. Having won a bronze medal in the quad scull at the 2012 Olympics, he knows that podiums are as much the result of attitude and belief as they are of training.

But not everyone is invincible. Years ago, Tiger Woods looked as if he would break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors. Serena Williams was regarded as a favourite to equal, if not surpass Margaret Court’s record of 24 singles titles at Grand Slam tournaments. Neither actually happened.

That the sporting pendulum swings both ways was clear on 16 August, when the Matildas took on England in the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. More than 11 million Australians watched that telecast – the most viewed TV program in our nation’s history.

The Matildas’ fairytale run – which included a 4-0 victory against Olympic champions Canada and the heart-stopping penalty shootout against France – showed us much more than their prowess, their determination, and their team ethos. Crucially, it showed us that they could still display grace and humility after a shattering defeat.

Many of you know the Indian-born Rudyard Kipling as the author of ‘The Jungle Book’ and other memorable works of fiction. But he was also a poet and one of my Province Office colleagues, who was once a globe-trotting sportswriter in his early 20s, tells me that a quote from the poem ‘If’ is famously inscribed above the entrance to Wimbledon’s centre court.

It says: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…”

God bless every single one of you as you pursue that quest.

Old Ignatians Union Sports Lunch

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Photos courtesy of Old Ignatians Union.

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