Fencing club battles to rebuild thriving community

“HELLO. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Originating from the popular 1987 movie ‘The Princess Bride’, this quote has become an instant classic and has no doubt encouraged many aspiring fencers to pursue the lesser-known sport.

Among those to take up the sword was Austins Ferry resident Avery Holderness-Roddam, whose love of the sport inspired him to become a fencing coach and start his own club, Van Diemen’s Fencing Club (VDFC).

Running for five years, VDFC is one of only two fencing clubs in Tasmania and the only club to currently hold tournaments.

Mr Holderness-Roddam said that despite its popularity in Europe, fencing faced a “constant uphill battle” to maintain and increase numbers in Australia.

“Tasmania has an even bigger battle due to the smaller population and greater distance from Australia’s fencing hotspots,” he said.

“VDFC is actively trying to raise awareness in fencing, let people know that we are here and hopefully, rekindle the thriving fencing community that used to exist a few decades ago.”

In an effort to promote interest in the sport, Mr Holderness-Roddam is offering a ‘Fencing in Tassie Schools’ program to make fencing more readily available to school-aged children and young adults.

Mr Holderness-Roddam said the idea for the school program was based on research undertaken by Fencing Victoria, which showed the majority of adult fencers began when they were in school and either continued to fence into adulthood or returned to the sport after an extended break.

“It is very important to the Tasmanian fencing community to get fencing into schools, if only in the form of programs running for several weeks,” he said.

“This will allow children to experience the sport and discover that there are less televised and visible, but equally exciting and interesting sports out there.”

In addition to the school program, VDFC hosted a fencing camp in late January, which was the first to be held in Tasmania in more than two decades.

More than 20 beginner and experienced fencers from across the state attended the three-day camp to participate in intensive training and a tournament.

“We thought we’d run the camp because this is the first year we will be taking a group of our junior fencers interstate to compete in the Victorian Fencing School Championships,” Mr Holderness-Roddam said.

“The main idea was to give students the opportunity to boost their skills, learn the rules of competitive fencing and what it’s like to compete at higher levels and develop goals for the upcoming year.”

Working hard alongside fellow coach Karina Halys, “behind-the-scenes” organiser Georgie Holderness-Roddam and a small team of volunteers, Mr Holderness-Roddam said the club would continue to promote the viability of fencing in Tasmania.

VDFC will be hosting a “come and try” event at Tolosa Street Hall, 148 Tolosa Street, Glenorchy on Tuesday 31 May.

For more information, visit www.vdfencing.com, phone 0428 057 473 or email van.diemen.fencing.club@gmail.com.

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