GRABBING EVERY OPPORTUNITY
Written by Jennifer Hoar
She’s arguably one of the fastest women in Australian ultimate, winning the Doolio at her first Nationals in 2014.
But Hannah Monty is also at the forefront of the taking the sport to the masses, working to increase grassroots participation through her work as the development officer with ACT Ultimate.
She’s been in the role for almost 12 months after two years with NSW Ultimate, and it’s a job she says she “wouldn’t trade for anything”.
“I love it,” Hannah says.
“There’s so much reward that comes out of doing it, um, whether you’re working with kids or, soon I’m going to be working with the aged, and it’s always just a really rewarding experience to go somewhere, teach them frisbee and then see when they click from not being able to follow rules by themselves and needing a moderator, to self-adjudicating and discussing resolution to conflicts.
“Yeah. It’s a really good thing to be involved with.”
Hannah has represented Australia at three World Championships, and starred in the inaugural Australian Ultimate League in 2018.
But despite all of that, she considers winning a $60,000 grant for seniors’ disc golf one of the single greatest highlights of her Ultimate career.
Much like the pioneers of the AUL themselves, Hannah is helping to write the book on how to grow Ultimate in Australia, from securing funding to getting the sport into schools.
“Everyone has got the same sort of struggle but the struggles are easier and easier to face every time you have them,” she says.
“As the development officer one of the big jobs is things like trying to get youth to play Ultimate, and you’re always going to struggle, because we’re a small sport and we don’t get national funding and all of these other things. No one has heard of us.
“But every time you try again, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and it gets a little easier than the last time you tried to get youth playing.
“So if we just keep pushing forward, eventually we are going to be one of those big participation sports. The book will already have been written and it will be easier for everyone.”
A rapid rise
Hannah started playing Ultimate back in 2013 and has enjoyed a rapid rise through the sport.
But the former Western Sydney University student never anticipated it would lead to representing her country – let alone a job.
“I was at uni games playing hockey and one of the guys on the men’s team called me up one week after uni games and said he really needed my help, and took me along to frisbee,” she says.
That guy was Ironbark’s Juan Demin.
“He thought I was pretty fast and that I was a girl and his team really needed girls. He figured I’d fit right in,” Hannah continues.
“I’ve just been playing ever since.”
She never looked back, quickly hooked on “the community, the athleticism” and the knowledge that she could “have the worst game” but still have fun.
Hannah has always been a go-with-the-flow kind of person; she had been only been playing hockey for about three days at uni games when she was scouted to play frisbee.
It’s also the attitude that led her to an even more niche sport (if you’ll believe it!): Quidditch.
“I saw a flyer at uni and was like ‘oh yeah, I like Harry Potter, I like sport, that will be perfect for me,” she recalls.
“So I just went along and that was about it. Just played for the next five years or so.
“Pretty much the same way I got into frisbee; I just went with the flow and it worked out.”
It’s a common thread throughout Hannah’s career; while obviously talented and hard-working, she has always firmly taken hold of any opportunities she’s been offered with both hands and made the most of them.
She’s been “fortunate” to avoid any major setbacks or injuries, save “a recurring jaw injury that flares up when I take a backhand to the face”.
Hannah has represented Australia in both Quidditch and Ultimate, and when the opportunity arose to compete in the AUL, she grasped it.
The Canberra Freeze were unlucky to finish fourth in the inaugural season, losing narrowly 13-11 to the eventual winners Melbourne Flames in round three.
But it’s a very different Freeze contesting this year’s premiership, with Adelaide Dennis, Abbie Dawson, 5 time Australian Dingo Matt Dowle and Hannah herself the only players returning from last year’s squad.
No taking it easy
This year the Freeze are tall and experienced, welcoming the likes of Newcastle Piewagon and I-Beam veteran Tim Lavis, and Brisbane Breakers transfer Calan Spielman.
“It’s a really high level of competition. You look at the 6 people on the line opposite you and you go ‘oh. There is no easy player for me to mark up on. I can’t take a break’,” Hannah says.
“There’s not a single point you play where you can take it easy, and that’s really good. But then on the other side they’re also doing great stuff for gender equity.
“I think playing a mixed sport, it’s always going to be a discussion but every time that we bring it up and we discuss it a little more, there’s less and less problems that people are coming up with so I think that we’re doing better.
“We’ve still got a ways to go. [Ultimate] is still not equal, but everyone’s got the recognition that there is a gender equity inequality and we’re on our way to fixing it.”
For that reason, Hannah says the AUL is “great to be a part of”.
But she says those playing mixed Ultimate in social leagues across the country can also do their part.
“My first recommendation would be that when someone needs to run a drill, alternate between men and women running a drill,” she says.
“Just something as simple as that – seeing women in a position of leadership, seeing women having something to say – will start the process, because at the moment most, for example, most mixed teams, they have to run a drill at training and it’s generally a man who would run the drill.
“Just changing the dynamic of something like that is a great way to start.”