What's hip and on the rebound?
"Handball" ... is hip with Sydney's grown-up kids. Photo: Lee Besford
It was a schoolyard game that absorbed hours of honing skills, defeating rivals and grazing knees. Battles lasted little lunches, big lunches and some went all summer.
All that was needed was a tennis ball, a flat surface and demarcation for ace, king, queen and, of course, the demoralising dunce square.
And now ''handball'' - with its myriad rules, customs and dialects - is hip with Sydney's grown-up kids. Tournaments and lazy afternoon sessions are popping up across Sydney as competitors relive their youth. One expanding league is the so-called Camperdown Handball Cup, an informal tournament run by 31-year-old Maree Cochrane, who works in film as an assistant director.
She organised a one-off handball cup in January last year, but ''everyone was so excited and we had so much fun we decided to keep going''. Games have been held every six weeks since, with about 20 regulars turning up.
''The court is not the standard four square,'' Ms Cochrane said. ''We start with nine and add more squares as people arrive and usually stop at 12.''
The rules are the same as those she played under at Blacktown Primary and later at Byron Bay High.
The only addition is the wildcard entry of random tequila shots.
''All squares are named, starting with ace, king, queen, jack, death square, there's a 'Maree square' in my honour, then dunce, double dunce, cup of tea and 'why you bother coming?'''
At Redfern, Scott ''Lady Hands'' Mitchell, 28, describes himself as a founding member of Wall Ball International, a championship played out every Sunday between 12 to 18 players.
''We are recreating a sense of community lost in the modern world,'' he said.
''I hope it spreads. Anyone can pick up a ball and play. The skills come back so quickly. You can be pretty good with little effort. Essentially it's a wall, a ball, 10 mates and one by one you're eliminated. Simple and fun.''