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Office of Sport


This ball throwing and hitting game was played by Aboriginal people in the Lake Eyre district of South Australia. The balls used were as round as possible and were usually about 8–10 centimetres in diameter. Gypsum, sandstone, mud, or almost any material that was easy to work was used to make the balls. To play the game, players were in two teams and lined up on each side of a dry clay pan. Each team then rolled the balls along the ground to the other side with the aim being to break up an opponent’s ball by hitting it while it was moving. When balls cannoned out of play to the sides they were left until the stock of balls was nearly used up. These were often retrieved by the small boys and put into play again. The game was played for hours and usually until the balls left were too few to cause any excitement. The balls were called koolchees.


Two opposing sides of equal numbers

Playing area

An area about 30–40 metres long and 15–20 metres wide (badminton, basketball or tennis courts are also ideal)


  • Use tennis balls, Kanga cricket balls or larger balls as the koolchee (ball) — one per player
  • Wooden skittles or plastic one litre soft drink bottles (weighted with a little sand) — one per player

Game play and basic rules

Players line up next to each other and with the teams about 20-30 metres apart facing each other. The aim of the game is for players of one team to hit a koolchee (ball) rolled by the opposing team.

Players of each team roll their koolchees underarm (below the knees) toward the opposing team. The game is a continuous activity. Each player has a number of koolchees and each team has a large central supply in a bin/basket. Players may only use one koolchee at a time.

When there are no koolchees left the game is temporarily halted for players to collect koolchees so that the game can continue. No set scoring is used.


In a physical education class use a badminton, volleyball or tennis court using some or all of the following:

  • Warm-up - Teams at each end of an area roll the koolchees (tennis balls) toward each other — no scoring. The idea is to hit another koolchee.
  • Practice Koolchee - Mark lines 5 metres apart. Place a skittle/bowling pin on one line and stand 5 metres away and attempt to knock it over. The skittle may be placed in the middle of two players. Younger players may have an individual competition or team relay using a similar set-up. After practice the distance may be increased to 10 or 15 metres. In a competition, players have 5 attempts at each distance (10, 15 and 20 metres — less for younger players) to knock the skittle over and score 1 point. The player with the highest score is the winner.
  • As a challenge activity - Players stand 10 metres from a wall and rebound a koolchee off it to knock a skittle down 5 metres from the wall — you may need to use a soccer ball as the koolchee. Players have three attempts and if the skittle is knocked over they move it a metre further back from the wall; if they miss with all three attempts they move the skittle a metre closer to the wall. Players may change hands to roll or vary the angle of the rebound.
  • Cooperative Koolchee - Each player has a koolchee. A number of bowling pins or skittles (around 10) are placed in a line halfway between two groups of players. The two teams work together to knock the skittles over. The time taken to knock all the skittles over could be recorded. Repeat a number of times with players attempting to set a koolchee record — the best time could be used to decide on a champion team in a competition. For younger players the distance between teams could be reduced and the pins/skittles placed closer together. Players may not retrieve balls from the playing area while the game is in progress — players need a supply of balls at each end. If a number of games are played at the same time then a competition may be held to see which team is the first to knock all the skittles down.
  • Competition Koolchee - Use a badminton or volleyball court. Place a line of five bowling pins or skittles about 2–3 metres in front of each team. A competition with 4–6 players in each team on a badminton court works well; matches are the best of three games for younger players and bets of five games for older players; change ends after each game. Each team attempts to roll their koolchees past the skittles at their end of the court to knock over the skittles/pins at the other end. They attempt to do this before the skittles/pins at their end are knocked down by their opponents. Players may ‘defend’ their own pins by rolling koolchees to hit koolchees that might knock over one of their skittles/pins. Depending on the ability or age of the group the pins may be knocked down randomly or in sequence. No players may go on to the playing area to retrieve koolchees.
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