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NSW Schools Debating 2023


Allen Oxlade (6)
A bit late but as the 2023 Debating Season has come to an end I think this wrap-up post would be appropriate. I took some time with this to ensure I could cover and acknowledge as much of the talent and achievements made by all of these amazing kids this season. I think it is only right to do so for the hours and hours and hourse they’ve put into the pursuit of this fine sport on far too many Friday nights. Without further ado... here it is!

The 2023 Debating Season… what a season it’s been!

With many roaring successes, amazing achievements and achievers scattered throughout the year, I think it is only right to acknowledge all (hopefully at the very least, most) of them:

Earlier this year, the ISDA season took off!

With many of NSW powerhouse debaters who have dominated the scene for the last few years taking off into the bigger (and better!) world of university debating, there was plenty of room on the stage left for new champions to come to the fore and make some room for themselves on that same stage for the coming years for NSW debating. And even better than the promise of new talent was that suppers and in-person debating had come back in full force after 3 years of COVID-affected debating. Following suit, the debating this year was better than ever!

From adjudicators all around the circuit, the general consensus was that the standard of debating had improved IMMENSELY over the last few years. And this has been a continuing trend over the last decade or so, and I would only expect that the quality of debating will only improve as more years go on.

The cream of the crop of these schools who broke to the very top in the finals were eventually Aloys, Pymble, Knox, Cranbrook, Joeys, Queenwood, Riverview, St Andrews, Grammar, Monte, Shore, Kincoppal, Scots, Ravenswood, Barker and SCEGGS. A fantastic effort from all the debaters in said teams. It takes a lot of time and a lot of dedication to sacrifice all those Friday nights in the pursuit of this oratory sport. Everyone is grateful for all the students that only make the scene better each and every ear.

Eventually two teams rose to the top.

A Grammar side weakened by the departure of some of its strongest talent and debaters in 2022, but newly bolstered by fresh faces and new talent on a team captained by Remy Sloan this year. As well as an immensely talented Aloys side, a school that has shown to be rising in strength in the past few years with star debaters like Eamonn O’Loughlin championing the school’s strength.

I think it should be noted just how many students and people came out to support this debate. The sheer numbers of supporters were very heartwarming, and it was good to see so many people in this community come out to support the teams regardless of who they were. It was a really fun night for everyone involved.

In a close but incredibly well fought debate, Grammar rose to the top, taking out the ISDA Premiership for the third year in a row. An impressive achievement indeed!

The school had doubts lingering over its head at the start of this year asking how well they would cope with the likes of Brendon Chen, Jack Story, Jack Glass, Aidan Woo and Toby Mok now gone. They quashed all doubts as the school has done many times over the last decade when the likes of Dan Yim departed in 2018, and Stratton even earlier in 2014. It seems that this powerhouse school will not wane soon in its power – regardless of whoever it is that leaves and how good they are. They have proven they have plenty of new talent ready to continue their domination of the NSW Schools Debating scene in the coming years. I don't think we'll be see any less of this school than we have for the last decade.

In this time the State Squad was also elected by two incredibly dedicated, talented and intelligent coaches in Udai Kamath and Sophie Shead. Some of strongest debaters on a world stage, even at a university level. But in the end, NSW’s 12 strongest debaters/brightest new talent were selected. Alexia Rigoni (Cammeraygal), Anhaar Kareem (SGHS), Darshanik Aryal (Ruse), Eamonn O’Loughlin (Aloys), Helena Piazza (SCEGGS), Iris Lee (Barker), Jason Lin (Grammar), Jehiel Pather (Scots), Michael Kwak (Shore), Nara Gong (Ruse), Nikki Han (Queenwood), Oliver Hoang (Grammar). This is a huge achievement from perhaps one of the biggest and deepest debating talent pools in the world (with AUS having the most WSDC prems and NSW having the most NSDC prems in AUS!). All of these students should be incredibly proud of themselves.

The final NSW State Team was comprised of Michael, Darshanik, Iris, Jehiel with Alexia and Anhaar as Reserves. The team was captained by Darshanik Aryal, who went onto not only make but captain the Australian team. This is a colossal achievement, following in the footstep of many of this state’s finest debaters ever produced including the likes of Dan Yim, Eden Blair, Imogen Harper, James Stratton and Bo Seo (if you wanna go that far back!).

As the ISDA season quietened down, the Hume Barbour trophy was up for grabs in the NSW Premier’s Debating Challenge. In the competition itself there were many upsets, with a Sydney Boys side upsetting the clear favourites James Ruse in the Quarter Finals of the competition – dashing the Australian Captain’s campaign to bring the trophy Ruse after many years. The teams that made the semi-finals consisted of Smiths Hill, Sydney Girls, Sydney Boys and Cammeraygal – a huge achievement to battle out and beat literally hundreds of other schools in the competition. At last, SGHS prevailed for the second year in a row, back to back, beating out a very strong Cammeraygal side with Alexia Rigoni at its front in the Grand Final. The school is proving to have plenty of talent to offer in the very near future, even after offering some of the state’s finest in the past with the likes of Ally Pitt, Eden Blair and Theodora von Armin (if you wanna go that far back!).

With Term 3 on us, the GPS, CAS and Archdale seasons finally came to the front.

In the CAS, a competition that is only 5 rounds, an incredibly strong Barker side led by Iris Lee at its forefront won all of its rounds, taking the competition outright. The competition included a few upsets, but the sheer talent of this Barker side was reflected in the selection of an unprecedented 3 speakers to CAS Firsts; Iris Lee, Jeremy Davie, Anna Steele with Angus Malcolm of Cranbrook comprising the last member of the team.

The Archdale competition this year was fiercely, fiercely contested. Yet in the end, two schools rose to the top of the contenders, SCEGGS and Abbotsleigh. SCEGGS, a traditional powerhouse school in the NSW circuit, boasting a NSW State Squad member in Helena Piazza this year. Abbotsleigh with their veteran Charlotte Allan, who has been in Archdale 1s for an incredibly impressive 3 years (winning in 2021 too!) at their forefront. In a closely contested showdown, it was the former who emerged victorious.

SCEGGS has always been a powerhouse school, outputting phenomenal debaters in the past of incredible calibre. Speakers who have only gone onto (and currently are!) conquering the landscape of university debating at a both a Worlds and Australs level. They are only continuing to show the program’s endurance and robustness by continuing to perform at such a high bar. I don’t expect to see this institution slow down any time in the near future.

From this season, the three speakers for the IGSA 1s reps team this year consisted of Penelope Jin (Queenwood) as well as two Archdale finalists in Helena Piazza (SCEGGS), Charlotte Allan (Abbotsleigh).

While it is fantastic to see so much commentary on the GPS/CAS it is quiet disheartening to see how little attention is given to the Archdale competition. The circuit has pumped out some of not only NSW's, but some of Australia’s best ever talent in the past, with the likes of debaters like Imogen Harper going onto represent the nation at the highest and best level. It is very disappointing and disheartening to see the circuit get neglected and robbed of the light it deserves and I really hope that in the coming 2024 season it gets the airtime it deserves here.
I hope that next year, it’ll be talked about more by both people who frequent this forum but also by some of the girls who do it too! This forum is for everyone in NSW schools debating – not just the GPS boys (although it can seem like that sometimes I suppose - they barely shut up!).

Speaking of the GPS, the competition this year was the most exciting rendition of it I have literally ever seen.

Despite Grammar’s triumph in ISDA earlier this year, there were many question marks hanging in the air. For only last year, Joey’s beat out perhaps the strongest team that Grammar, as a powerhouse institute, has ever put forth – taking out the prem for the first time in more than 50 years. Further, both the Scots and Shore side had been bolstered by their respective NSW state speakers in Michael Kwak getting the well-deserved promo to Shore’s Firsts and Jehiel Pather leading the Scots side. Also competing for the top spot was Sydney Boys, captained by Abrar Chowdhury, with Vishruth Anand in CHS 1s too, upsetting the Ruse favourites led by the country’s best in Darshanik Aryal in PDC. With Scots, Grammar, High, Shore and Joeys all in the chase for the esteemed Rutledge Louat Premiership, the hunt was on.

The season was chockful of upsets with Shore defeating heavyweights Grammar and Joeys in their incredibly tough early few rounds. Scots was defeated by High, and Grammar by Joeys. By Round 3, the clear favourites at the start of the season, Grammar, were down two debates. As the race continued in each nail-biting week, each seeming to determine the trajectory of the competition, Scots pulled out a crucial, equalising victory against Shore in Round 5. Yet, by the end of the competition, there were only two institutes who made it to the finish line – not unscathed, with one loss each – but made it nonetheless, with Shore and Joeys taking out the Co-Premiership. Joeys back to back for the first time in the institute’s history and Shore for the first time in 45 years.

At the end of this GPS season, there are a few take-aways.

The scales of power have been thwarted by Joeys, Scots and Shore.

I think it is safe to say that the High-Grammar duopoly that has dominated the GPS for the last 30 years has – at last – been toppled!

Grammar remains a powerhouse institute. Even with Year 12 talent leaving they have new talent even in Second Grade with the likes of Oliver Hoang, Jason Lin making State Squad, Daniel Lloyd-Hurwitz who made GPS 1s, Will Ellis and James Woo, Aidan’s younger counterpart.

High, as a historic powerhouse, seems to be waking from the slumber it’s been for the last few years. They now have Vishruth Anand, who has earned his spot in the super powered CHS 1s side as well as a Year 10 in First Grade – something we see little of in the GPS. We’ll see how the institute builds off its momentum next year.

A new powerhouse school has emerged in Joeys who have proved that their ‘miracle’ in 2022 wasn’t a one-off and that they are here to stay.

Headed by Matthew Toomey, an old Joeys Boy, the question for the institute in 2024 will be whether it can retain the badge of honour and the prestige it has forged for itself in the last two years. I think we’ll be seeing more of this school in the coming years, with Will McCarthy in the GPS 1s side having more year left. Further they have proven they have more than enough strength and cohesion as a team to continue winning. Their title of “powerhouse” still has a question mark lingering over it despite their work, and it is floating over their heads. Next year will see if they can get rid of all doubts.

Scots will see if it can continue its success, even with Jehiel Pather departing in 2024. Shore has put its name on the table, and boasting Michael Kwak, a State Speaker, for one more year – with one more bullet in the chamber – they will see if they can do what Joey’s managed to pull off this year and get that sweet back-to-back.

The Reps season rolled around with the superpowered CHS 1s side consisting of Abrar Chowdhury (SBHS), Alexia Rigoni (Cammeraygal), Anhaar Kareem (SGHS), Darshanik Aryal (Ruse) and Vishruth Anand (SBHS). The similarly strongly-armed GPS 1s side consisted of Jehiel Pather (Scots), Will McCarthy (Joeys), Michael Kwak (Shore), Daniel Lloyd-Hurwitz (Grammar). The Archdale side of Helena Piazza (SCEGGS), Penelope Jin (Queenwood) and Charlotte Allan (Abbotsleigh). CAS side boasted 3 Barker speakers in Iris Lee, Jeremy Davie, Anna Steele and Angus Malcolm from Cranbrook.

In the end, it came down to the final CHS-GPS debate first in which GPS very narrowly split a panel 2-1, to win the Reps Prem, taking it away from CHS 2022 side who had won it last year. Congrats to all the GPS boys as well as all the Representatives in IGSA, CHS and CAS who did an amazing job of representing their school at one of the highest levels in this circuit.

With all of that being said, 2024 is shaping up to be an incredibly exciting season with plenty of talented debaters ready to surge to the front. Let us watch on and see who rises to the top! There are more eyes on the circuit than ever before.

And for the 2023 Year 12 Debaters don’t let this be the end of your journey just yet!

If you loved your years of high school debating, I promise promise promise promise promise promise promise promise promise you university debating only gets SO much better. You meet so many amazing people, go to so many awesome places and have incredible, long-lasting memories and friendships.

After COVID, the Australian circuit has struggled to get back to the numbers it used to have pre-COVID. We have so much talent here, we just need to find you guys and get you on board for the ride! You clearly have an incredible talent so don’t leave it in the dust after this year. The show must go on!

And for the new kids taking up a mantle that’s been passed for many years now, I hope you guys still continue to engage in the program not only within your schools but on a broader scale. I started posting on this forum a few years ago to get up engagement from how abysmal it used to be. Seeing the most amount of engagement on the forum ever in this first year fully freed from the shackles of COVID-19 is heartwarming. The forum, this year, has had 120K views which is the most it’s ever had, certainly a huge improvement from the 10K it used to be a few years ago. That’s TWELVE times more debaters and coaches engaged in NSW debating who know what’s going on and new, interested budding youngsters and potential wünderkinds keen on this odd little sport of ours, who could go onto be some of the best debaters we’ve seen.

So, continue to engage on this forum. And I know it is hypocritical because I am partially responsible for some of Green and Gold’s criticisms for being university-debater dominated but I think it’s really lovely to have some place where we can talk about all this stuff we think about outside of only Friday nights. I do hope more students from high school continue to take up this mantle going into the future!

Sadly, as lesdebates said, there must come a time where all of us must touch grass and I am afraid that this will probably be one of my last posts. Make sure you guys continue to engage in debating at all levels and I am SO looking forward to seeing this community grow bigger than ever before.

For the last(?) time,

DebatingNerd signing off…


Stan Wickham (3)