Buzz Lightyear and Wonder Woman are playing a fast-paced game of ping pong. The ball raps back and forth in an even rhythm, until Buzz slams a precise shot for the point. A cheer goes up from the various superheroes surrounding the table. Don't let the costumes fool you-this is serious game play, as an almighty serve from a now fired-up Wonder Woman proves.
Welcome to Superhero Ping Pong. This Sydney tradition is tailor-made for the After Hours Athlete. We're at the Kirribilli Hotel in Milson's Point, an old-fashioned boozer perched on the north side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Much loved by Aussie locals and travellers alike, the Kirribilli reels in all manner of characters looking for beer and good banter.
Meanwhile on a neighbouring table, an umpire announces, "Love-16. Advantage, Pumpkin." His opponent, a giant hotdog with an evil mask - known as Evil Hotdog - pulls himself together and launches into a tight rally. The pressure is high and when Pumpkin misses two crucial shots, the umpire shouts, "Love 20. Match point, Evil Hotdog!" Elated, he throws his paddle into the air, bellows YES, and skulls his beer through the mask.
We head out back to check out the chiller side of the action. Cute glitter-strewn girls and guys in decidedly less-super costumes surround two ping pong tables. Everyone is suitably lubricated as the jukebox belts out tunes and the ping pong balls fly. A half-marathon was on earlier today, so there's a scattering of drunk, medal-adorned runners. We rally our teammates and call next.
When the night's activities draw to a close we spill out into the street and the superheroes all go their separate ways, but memories of the night will live on. Hey, it might even end up in a comic book panel.
Photos courtesy of Cassandra Coyle.