Spring Break Rugby Trip: Australia

by Ranon Ng (with support from Nick Papaloukas, Simon Gilmour and Owen Weismiller)

The opportunity for the creation of timeless memories was provided to us by an exceptional group of coaches.

Some of us expected heat, some of us expected an abundance of sand, some of us didn’t even know what to expect and some of us declined to have expectations. This was a two-week trip, 16 days exactly. Rugby Tour, Australia 2018, was nothing short of a trip to remember. This was a trip where we could immerse ourselves into Australian culture by billeting with different hosts at each different school. We played four games in total, beginning with William Clarke College in Sydney, then to All Saints’ College in Bathurst, then St Edmund’s College in Canberra, and finally, Saint Ignatius’ College in Sydney.

With only a duffel bag and a backpack allowed as our luggage, we treaded towards the Crothall loop in khaki shorts, tour hoodies, and our tour tee’s underneath. We were assigned into four groups: the Platypuses, the Koalas, the Cockatoos, and the Wallabies, where we would compete in some dodgy competitions for points (we had no inkling of how these points were calculated – and still don’t). We were also given toy animals, 7 of which were stolen throughout the trip by Kason “the animal thief” Grewal. Then when the Stockman, Mr. Daum, lets out a bellow of a cow’s moo, we all must produce and imitate the noise of our own animals.

Vancouver was where the Stockman first emerged; those who were unable to produce their animals had the chance to redeem themselves by singing “I’m A Little Tea Pot” for the team and all the other rugby enthusiasts around us at one of the gates of BC Place with coach Linn. Our first stop before Australia was the Vancouver 7s rugby. Watching Fiji play was one of the most invigorating things; we stood wide-eyed, gawking at the Fijian style of play. Their slick passes, off-loads and their plays were simply exceptional and blowing our minds.

On the same day, we departed for Australia on a red-eye flight, boarding beginning at 11:00 pm Vancouver time. When we arrived at the airport, we discovered that even the Canadians needed Australian visas to enter the country. Thankfully, with most of the team lying on their duffel bags, dead tired already, our exceptional coaches quickly resolved the problem within an hour. The boys proceeded to check their duffel bags in and head towards the gate, where some ran off to satiate their hunger.

When we set foot in Sydney, we were welcomed by a massive heat wave. We filed into the tour bus and were driven to Valentine Sports Park, where we were introduced to our ex-Team Argentinian tour organizer, Joaquin Zabaloy. We hit the rest of the day off with a very large lunch, a meeting, then straight out to training. During the meeting, we were assigned, by group, to memorize and sing the Australian classic “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” by Rolf Harris. Training was an absolute surprise. Just 10 minutes into training, while we were only playing touch, the unusually hot weather caused everyone to sweat profusely. We finished training off with a hydro session, where we created a whirlpool and did some very relaxing exercises led by Coach Danskin.

The second day was game day. We showed up to the field amped up and ready to play, but it wasn’t until the Juniors kicked off at 1 pm that we realized the true meaning of heat. The Juniors played well, but lost by five tries and two conversions (kicks), gaining no points of their own. The Seniors experienced the harsher moment of the heat wave, as the temperature rose to a hot 39 degrees Celsius while we played. The William Clarke boys were large and knew how to hit hard. Our biggest highlight of the game was when a dehydrated Kason Grewal nearly ran the full length of the pitch, popped down and tried to score a try at the 5-metre line, instead of the try line. We ended the game leading with three tries and two conversions to two tries and one conversion. Man of the match for the Juniors was Joshua Mao, Seniors was Owen Weismiller.

Today was also the day where we were sent to be with our billet hosts, where Kason and I were paired to go with probably the biggest man who was on the pitch – 6-feet-4, 200 pounds of pure muscle, the legend named Connor Matthews, who turned out to be quite the nice guy. Intimidatingly enough, Connor has a twin named Ben, who was almost identical in stature. Kason and I seemed to have had the best experience of the first round of billeting, lucky to have been hosted by the incredibly accommodating Matthews family.

The next couple of days were spent sightseeing around Sydney, including Bondi Beach. Then after we said our good-byes to our billets, we went to Scenic World in the Blue Mountains, which was on the way to All Saints’ College in Bathurst.

At Bathurst, we stayed at a boarding house (Britton) on campus. Memories were made there, toilets didn’t work, and tape ball (a game invented by coaches Daum and Danskin) was played, with Nick Papaloukas finishing the day on a 15-0 record.

Our second rugby games got off to a rough start – we lost the ball and had to play a difficult ten minutes of defense against the combo team of All Saints’ and St Stanislaus’. The game ended faster than we thought. The Juniors narrowly won their game 29-28, and the Seniors won 22-5. The highlight of the Junior match was when Nick Strandberg grabbed the ball and ran nearly the width of the field. Man of the Match awards were given to Max Nishima (Juniors) and Luke Rainier-Pope (Seniors).

The evening included the visit to Bathurst Raceway, then to an exciting bowling competition for a chance to increase our team points. Adam Moulden won it with a solid performance of 124, Nick Papaloukas following closely with a 123. Another highlight that night was when Bolu Ososami won an R2-D2 stuffed toy from a claw machine and Mr. Hyde-Lay joined in on the boisterous applause and even posed for a picture.

Traveling to Canberra was a long 4-hour drive. When we arrived at St Edmund’s, we were immediately sent off to be billeted to the players on the St Edmund’s team. The night was spent watching a rugby league game.

The day after was spent sightseeing. We drove around the compound where the embassies were situated, then around the national library and highest courthouse in the country, and stopped the tour for lunch and shopping. Afterwards was the game.

The St Edmund’s game was difficult. We were undersized in both Senior and Junior Divisions – despite that, we played as hard as we could and as well as we could. The St Edmund’s team ran the ball hard, rucked with precision, competed for the ball relentlessly and played consistently. Some would say we were thrashed, yes, but as Luke Rainier-Pope said, “Remember this feeling, don’t ever let this happen again.” This learning opportunity was priceless. It exemplified the exact way we should play and the attitude that we should play with. The Juniors lost 70-12, and the Seniors lost 48-3. Man of the Match awards were given to Duke Curran (Juniors) and Ephraim Hsu (Seniors). Dinner was provided by some of the wonderful families who hosted us and gifts were exchanged. 

Nick P., Bolu, Rhys Williams and I were billeted to Oliver’s family (their starting 2-man or hooker), who served us some amazing food and he had some of the nicest parents (thank you Mrs. Efkardipos!).

Wollongong was our next stop. Some of us were tired, some sleepy, some excited but we loaded the bus once again and began our drive. It was about 1 pm when we got to the hotel and had some free time that afternoon.

The next day, we left the hotel around noon to surf. We were split into two groups, both mixed with experienced and inexperienced surfers. Finn Goodyear was surfing with ease and Mr. Danskin did some rad handstands on the board, while others weren’t really having an easy time. The rest of the afternoon was mainly free time and training. During training, the backs were assigned new plays, while the forwards sharpened up their offensive and defensive line-outs.

We arrived at Saint Ignatius’ College wide eyed and impressed by their facilities. This school was of high caliber, with 9 rugby teams, 20 soccer teams, and more. Again, following the same billeting routine, we were assigned to our hosts after we arrived. Nick and I were with the Tucker family, an extremely accommodating family with a grade 11, Tom Tucker who is an aspiring specialist in the Doctorial field. Tom, Kathryn, we wish you and your family the best.

The day after was spent in the city, where we visited the AFL Sydney Swans’ stadium and training facilities, then after lunch, we popped back to the Saint Ignatius’ campus to play our final game.

Our final game was draining and tough. Personally, we should have been able to defeat the opposing team – if we trained a little longer, organized ourselves and had a little more rest, we could have. The Juniors lost 43-0, the Seniors lost 36-10. The Man of the Match award was presented to Simon Gilmour (Senior).

The rugby trip with the lads was practically a memory generator for me, especially the time in Bathurst. That’s when we stayed in the old Britton House on the All Saints’ campus and had some great nights there. Great memories will stay with me, like when Bolu won his R2-D2 in the claw machine of an old bowling alley, and jumping off trees into the river at Cattai National Park.

This trip was full of experience-gathering and learning. The St Edmund’s game brought our coaches’ ideals to life and helped clarify what we must improve on. Every moment was enjoyed thoroughly, so the time flew past us as the tour came to an end. We will continue improving as a rugby team on and off the field, as we shift our focus to capturing a fourth consecutive Provincial Championship.

Finally, I’d like to give an immense thank you to the coaching staff who accompanied us, as well as everyone else who was crucial in the trip’s success. Thanks to Mr. Hyde-Lay, Mr. Linn and Mr. Danksin for coaching us and accompanying us. Tremendous thanks go to Mr. Daum, who organized the trip from start to finish – planning every single one of our days down to the minute. And Joaquin Zabaloy, who arranged most of the logistics on the ground in Australia must also be greatly commended.

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Ranon Ng is a Senior School student at St. Michaels University School.

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