For Rostrevor student Garang Kuach, his debating career began as a way of avoiding lunchtime detention. Yet, last month, he and teammates Christy Saji and Liam D'Silva became the resounding Champions of the prestigious Debating SA Schools' Competition.
Unsure what to select for his compulsory after-school College activity, Garang, of Sudanese descent, initially left his form blank. When pressed to make a choice or "face the consequences", he opted for debating, never expecting that a few months later he would be standing in the great halls of state parliament delivering the opening argument for the College's Senior Debating Team in the Grand Final.
Facing the challenging task of arguing in the affirmative that: "Boris is best for Brexit" against St Peter's Girls' School, the trio achieved an emphatic win, earning a 5-0 unanimous decision from the judges.
"Who knew just one email and a few threats could get me to accidentally join the debate team?" Garang told the Rostrevor's assembly audience the day before the Grand Final.
"You don't have to be the smartest person to debate," he said. "Yeah, it helps but it is not a necessity and I am living proof of that!"
The team came from relative obscurity, sitting 8th on the ladder and only narrowly making finals, but a gritty win against a very strong Pulteney Grammar School team and a convincing win against Adelaide High School in the finals series secured their place in the home of debate state parliament's House of Assembly.
Team member Christy, who has competed in debating since Year 5, said the trio worked frantically for the week trying to absorb all they could about Brexit and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson even as news was breaking about a possible Brexit deal on the day of the debate. "We were looking at the news and things kept changing, so we were still writing our rebuttals on the day," Christy said.
A total of 64 schools took part in this year's Debating SA Schools' Competition, across 272 teams, including 25 in the Senior Debating fixture. The Rostrevor Senior Debating Team had made the grandfinal on three previous occasions, but had been denied the title until now. Christy said his older brothers, 2018 Dux Cyril Saji and Chris Saji ('15) were particularly thrilled by the win. Chris was one of the students behind a resurgence in Rostrevor debating from 2012 until his graduation year. The debating mantle was then taken over by Cyril, who competed in the Grand Final in 2017 and 2018, but was denied victory.
"This win is big for our confidence and self-esteem, especially going into Year 12 and knowing we can handle ourselves as public speakers," Christy said.
Garang encouraged anyone wanting to develop their public speaking skills and confidence to give debating a try.
"We started out as three young lads meeting up in a room, trying to work out the responsibilities of each speaker and ended as grand finalists and talented debaters who could skilfully express their thoughts and ideas on any stage," Garang said.
"I encourage all young people to forge their own profound pathways as the next generation of hard core wordsmiths and belligerent rebuttalists."
A CATHOLIC BOYS' DAY AND BOARDING COLLEGE IN THE EDMUND RICE TRADITION RECEPION TO YEAR 12
Glen Stuart Rd Woodforde Sa 5072 Australia