South Australian Paintball Players League (first impressions)
SAPPA 5 man Round 4: A 3rd Party 1st Impression
So I’m the new guy in town. I just moved from the United States about 6 months ago and had heard some discouraging things about the paintball culture in Australia. Paintball has been a significant part of my life over the past few years and I was determined to get involved in the Adelaide paintball scene despite ominous rumors about the legality, availability and cost of playing. After moving to the other side of the planet, paintball wasn’t my primary concern. But after a few months, and finding employment, I found myself poking around Bills Paintball Forums again. I found an unanswered PM from a local baller. The message was probably a year old or so, but I gave it a shot. After some messages back and forth I found myself dusting off my Flex in anticipation for Round 4 SAPPA 5 man. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was going to get a better idea Saturday as I’d agreed to help set up the field with Simon from Fusion.
My first realization upon arriving at the field, and looking at the South Australian landscape, was that I had spent the last 6 months of my life in cities. I gotta get out more! Then I came across the staging area, “Nice nets, nice set up, plenty of tables, cover from the sun… these guys have thought this through.” Then we walked up to the fields. I heard a comment about how the ground wasn’t perfectly even, and that there wasn’t much topsoil but they were working on it. Meantime, the last tourney I played in was on mulch. The one before that was, quite literally, on the side of a hill. Cement borders, decent posts, some of the outside netting was a little beat up, but the netting was strong where it counts. Quality paintball facility here, “Let’s get to work”.
There were already a good handful of guys on the field dragging bunkers around. As I stepped under the nets I was struck with a feeling of nostalgia as the smell of broken paint filled my nose. For a moment it felt like I was on my home field, with my old teammates that had become my family. The collection of bunkers was, admittedly, a bit ad hoc. Quality bunkers, but unmatched and spanning a few years of paintball history. However, as I started helping to place and set the bunkers I realized that the other guys out there that day weren’t paid by anyone. They were fellow ballers, who were just helping to set up the field for their tournament tomorrow. Additionally, the bunkers were all unmatched because many of them were shipped in on loan from the very teams who were participating the next day. Some of the bunkers were owned by the SAPPA who took the dues paid by the players for their purchase.
After a long day of hard work, foul language and a bit too much sun, we took some time to walk the completed fields. We planned our break out, and looked for key lanes and bunkers. Once we were satisfied with what we had dreamed up, we packed up our stuff and headed back to the city.
I arrived on the day of the event with all the gear I was allowed to bring on the plane from the States, which doesn’t include a marker, tank or hopper. So I wasn’t really sure how that was going to work out, but was confident that my team mates were prepared to help. (Incidentally I’m still looking for a cheap set up fyi) After meeting up with all the guys from the Fusion family I was more than prepared for the event. Complete strangers put a brand new team marker and tank in my hand, as well as some coveted pro owned hotness in loader form. I didn’t know these guys from Adam (yet) but they were trusting me with their gear. Thanks for the good faith.
As the teams start arriving there’s an unmistakable feeling in the air. I see teams walking the fields, pointing down those critical lanes. Players are forming themselves tight in the bunkers and looking at what they see. Reffs, wearing blaze yellow uniforms, are having their early morning meeting. No doubt about it, these are ballers, and this tournament is legit. Seventeen teams, some from interstate, are ready for a long day of “smashin’ paint” (as I believe it is referred to around here).
As the day goes on, win lose or draw I see teams playing hard and cheering for each other. It becomes obvious that some of these teams have established relationships among each other. Whether the relationships were in the form of ‘brother team’ or ‘heated rival’ there was a common bond. Some teams were advancing to the top of the table, clear ‘teams to beat’. Other teams were fighting it out in the middle of the table with all eyes firmly fixed on the prize. One team in particular was forced, through no fault of their own, to play with only 4 players. And game after game they showed up and did their job as well as anyone could. Those guys won some great games too. Now… paintball is paintball… I think we all know what I mean by that. Sometimes players can’t help but question calls, or get fired up in the heat of the moment. But I felt that this day was virtually untainted by bad attitudes or unsportsmanlike conduct. The Reffs from Reffs Inc. were professionals. A tournament with seventeen teams goes on for a long, long time. And those refs have to be sharp for every second of it. I, personally, have never been as thoroughly checked at any other tournament as this one. But the refs did it with professionalism and sometimes a good sense of humor.
After the last of the paint was thrown, and the field was no longer live, I truly saw what SAPPA was all about. Masks off, but paint smothered jerseys still on, teams popped open their eskys (coolers for you guys from the States) handed out a few beers, and continued sharing their ‘play by play’ memories of their matches. We all walked back onto the fields and gathered for a full tourney group shot. One of the guys from Taktix (sorry if I spelled your team name wrong) organized some scaffold for anyone who wanted to get some great shots of the day, thanks for that. So we posed for a few pictures (post them for the love of God) and had a few more laughs as we walked back to the staging area. Each of the seventeen teams had been assigned specific bunkers which they were responsible for cleaning. So, many with beer in hand, we started squeegying, sponging, spraying, and wiping down all the bunkers. Now, this was a great moment to me for many reasons. It was great to chat to my new teammates while we were working. I didn’t know anything about them, really, other than how well they played that day. But as I looked across the fields and saw all the work being done on all the bunkers, the bunkers that had been donated by or through SAPPA paid for by the players, I saw the SAPPA: a league sponsored by and governed by the players. Looking at a sea of paintball goons working and laughing together, and all the obscene things that go on when a group of paintball goons get together, I felt like I was a little closer to home.
I spoke to many of the players that evening about how unique I found the SAPPA. I kept saying, “Man, you don’t see this everywhere. This sort of thing is hard to find where I’m from.” To which the consistent response was, “Well… this is the SAPPA.”
So congratulations to all you ballers who took home a trophy, plaque or some new gear. And thanks to all those pro refs from Refs Inc, and all the teams that traveled so far to make it to the tournament. Thanks for lending me some gear Fusion, and thanks for giving me a spot on the team to play for you guys. I wish I could write about more specifics of the tournament, but I’m worried I’ll get names wrong etc… after all I’m the new guy in town. Moreover, I wanted this write up to show you all my first impressions of the SAPPA. I feel lucky to be a part of it, and am looking forward to the next round.
Ps: Fusion Red FTW in Round 5… just callin’ it like I see it…