The tour to England, France and Ireland was an experience I will never forget. The honour of coaching your country is indescribable. To share this experience with 30 other Australians striving to achieve the same goals make all the hard work worthwhile.
Our squad of 26 players was more than able. The selectors did a creditable job with all players worthy of their position. The balance of the team was excellent. All playing needs were met on this long and arduous tour.
The training camp at Narrabeen was first rate. All players arrived fit (a different situation from last year) and keen to prove themselves worthy of representing Australia. From the first session all players were told that current form, commitment and attitude were the criteria for selection and no position was guaranteed. The first.three days were very challenging.both physically and mentally. Players had to prove themselves to each other. Some even proved something to themselves! After skills assessment, basic team play was the focus. This quickly progressed to more detailed preparation. A squad of 26 players has some logistical problems, but in terms of preparing your team and players it is ideal. Running two squads against each other creates competition.and allows for development under pressure which is a vital ingredient when competing at the top level. Our other focus was on team goals. These were decided by all squad members and were periodically assessed throughout the tour. We prepared extremely well and were all satisfied we were "as ready as we were ever going to be.
The question of captain was an important one. After assessing all players John Rowbotham and Luke Branigan were appointed co-captains. Both possess different but equally impressive leadership qualities. Their contrasting personalities worked extremely effectively both on and off the.field. I would like to thank them personally for their effort and the professional way they undertook their extra responsibilities.
Our farewell at NSWRL Club was an excellent send off. We were overcome with the fuss made over us and the enormity of the tour we were about to embark on. The past schoolboy tourists and the farewell speeches proved to be quite emotional. We were told many times that the ASSRL had never lost a game on previous Northern Hemisphere tours ( it was even printed on the invitation) and how proud our organisation was of.this fact. We would also be playing against Great Britain's professional juniors and therefore their best for the first time.These two factors proved the ultimate challenge.
After 36 hours of travelling and finally arriving at our French motel, I insisted on training. It was probably my least popular decision on tour. Even the other staff seemed to raise an eyebrow or two. The very cold, wet and muddy ground didn't seem to convince anyone either. Dealing with adversity was a theme on tour and this seemed as good a place to start as any. The language barrier proved difficult in more ways than one. Training was conducted in the dark except for the final 20 minutes. Despite all this, training was surprisingly good. Most of us were running on adrenalin.
We played two games in France. The First Test proved that our team was superior in every department. We did everything asked and were happy with the result. The second game,.against a French Schools.Selection was an opportunity for the other members of the squad to play and to introduce new plays. The game was a little closer due to our opposition playing to a different set.of rules than ourselves. Overall another pleasing result. The French leg of the tour was most enjoyable. We were still in heavy training but playing under different conditions was appreciated.
Ireland proved the most difficult conditions on tour. The boggy grounds and chilling winds making everything uncomfortable. It is extreme experiences like these that bring tearn members closer together. Despite the conditions our team put on a very entertaining exhibition.in attack. Our defence was caught short a couple of times though which actually proved a valuable lesson later on. We were looking forward to playing in England. We were being told by everyone that the Great Britain Young Lions would be too strong for us and the ASSRL would taste its first defeat.
Our games against the BARLA teams went as expected. We were too strong in all facets of the game. Our attacking ploy was a treat for everyone. The speed and skill demonstrated left a strong impression with the locals. A lot of work was done on the defence. It improved to the level that our try line was not crossed by a BARLA team on tour. To our surprise we were told we were playing 40 minutes a half. The obvious reasoning by their administration was to tire us out over the length of the.tour before the Test.matches. Playing the extra.20 minutes per game was not acceptable to us. After difficult negotiations the time was reduced. It was no surprise that BARLA failed to gain a representative in the Great Britain and Young Lions team. The professionals were leaving nothing to chance. Our opposition had been to every game including the one in Ireland. They took a video of every game and were obviously treating the Test.series as a priority. They believed the games would demonstrate how far their development had come,
We went into the first test without seeing our opposition. We were quietly confident that we would measure up. It turned out to be a spiteful game. The penalties count, 21-5, also made things very difficult. I was a very proud coach.after the.game. Our team played extremely well. We played to our game plan and deserved our win. Our opposition were bigger and stronger but our superior team play and discipline were major factors in our win.
Our preparation for the second test changed a little as we finally knew our opposition and their style of play. Fatigue was becoming a major problem. The first test was very physical. Another game two days before the second test and the end of a long tour would make this game a difficult assignment. This is exactly how it turned out. The game was an arm wrestle throughout and we were running on "'fumes". A few adjustments at halftime and the reinforcement of our organisations past undefeated record got us through in the end. The win cannot be understated. The final whistle was an extremely emotional moment. It was also a great relief. We celebrated our.success and reminisced.about the preceding five weeks. It was an experience I will never forget.
My fellow staff members were professional and a pleasure to work with. Kevin Sharp end Michael Fischer were outstanding. Their. organisation and ongoing trouble shooting made every-one's tour easier and enjoyable. Peter Sinclair was more than a trainer. He was assistant coach and like the year before did an outstanding job. For the first time a physiotherapist joined the tour. Scott Thornton was a valuable asset. His injury prevention and rehabilitation work with injured players was exceptional. Nearly every player was available for each game. This statistic speaks for itself. Finally I thank the ASSRL Council and its members for entrusting me this prestigious position and wonderful experience. The support from the ACTSSRL Council and Hawker College was also appreciated.
The 1999 Australian Schoolboys set off on their historic tour of England, lreland and France on Monday November 22nd and touched down in Sydney on the morning of December 23rd. ln all respects the last Aussie Schoolboys team of the 20th Century maintained the outstanding record of their famous predecessors.
They returned undefeated and this included a 2-0 win in the test series against a very formidable opposition.indeed, the 1999 Young Lions were a vastly different proposition to the BARLA teams of the past, This was literally an extremely professional team that was. primed and ready to finally inflict defeat on the Aussies.
Not only on the field did this team excel, off the field they were outstanding ambassadors for their country, wearing their Australian gear with pride and impressing the locals everywhere they went,
We always said to the boys that this would he "the tour of a lifetime". It was. How many 17 year olds get the chance to not only represent their nation in the sport they love but at the same time visit France, Ireland, England?
How many 17 year olds are lauded by the public and continually reminded about what a great sporting nation Australia Is? We were and this Australian tradition became one of our catchcries. The boys were continually reminded of the responsibility they had in wearing the green and gold
The four elected team officials plus physiotherapist Scott Thomton and ASSRLC Treasurer Brian Pearson will remember with great fondness our time together.
We thank the boys for their efforts and wish them all the best for their football futures, There's little doubt that many of the 26 will make a mark on the game at the senior level. Their skills -and commitment will ensure that.
Full results were:
defeated France In Limoux 76-0
defeated French Selection in Carcassone 32-8
defeated Irish Students in Dublin 56-10
defeated BARIA Cumbria County in Whitehaven 62-0
defeated BARLA Lancashire County in Wigan 54-0
defeated Young Lions in First test in Widnes 24-4
defeated BARLA Yorkshire County in Leeds 64-0
defeated Young Lions in second test in Hull 16-12
Final match against London and the South in Oxford cancelled due to ice on the ground.
As is indicated above,the Test matches were close and very keenly fought but this was as it should be. The Tests were just that, a real test of the Aussie character.
Congratulations to the Young Lions for their huge improvement since the 1997 domestic BARLA series. Naturally nearly five weeks together and a tour of 3 countries warrants many many thanks to lots of great hosts. Everywhere we went we were.made.to feel welcorne.
Thanks to all those people from the first few days at Narrabeen right up to the final few days in London.
Thanks to the ASSRL Council for believing in the ability of the elected officials to do the job.and a special thanks to physiotherapist Scott'Fester' Thornton.This much-needed innovation contributed immensely to our success.Scott's professionalism coupled with Peter Sinclairs training routine minimalised our injuries.Nearly every match saw us with 26 available.players. The boys were blessed with coach Mark Greer's wonderful ability to blend the team from Day One and develop them as an extremely formidable and in fact quite awesome team.Of course the team had its stars but what stood out was the fact that any combination of the 26 players was capable of brilliant attack and punishing defence.
Brian's presence on tour was invaluable.His ambassadorial skills and his tour experience from 1991 made our job so much easier. I've always enjoyed working with Kevin Sharp and 1999 was no exception.Kevin's managerial skills are second to none while his pre-tour work laid the foundations for our success.
Thanks to all for a tour that will never fade from the hearts and minds of 32 proud Australians.
TOUR MANAGER'S REPORT
A great deal of effort was put into the planning stages of the tour, both here and overseas. 1 will only mention a few of those involved but my thanks go to all
* Tas Baitieri was instrumental in ensuring the French leg of the tour went ahead.
* BARLA officials , particularly lan Cooper and Jackie Reid put.a great deal of planning into the itinerary for the British segment of the tour
* Ray Baartz from Ray Baartz Sports Pty Ltd provided a service above and beyond that expected of a supplier in provision of touring uniforms.
* All team officials had specific tasks to perform and these were carried out with a great deal of expertise and thoroughness.
An excellent choice for assembly of a team. The camp staff were extremely cooperative and the food and facilities were ideal for the preparation of athletes.
The French Connection
Louis Bonnery worked very hard to convince the FFRL that the Australian Schoolboys tour was essential for the development of the game in their country. He was also instrumental in involving UNSSA and getting all schoolboys.teams to play the Aussies.. Even though.he.realised the difference in level of ability , he is committed to developing the game in the schools. He was strongly supported by Pascal Zanon, the coordinator of school representative sport in the south of France.
Pascal and Louis ensured that we were treated to the best French hospitality throughout our stay in Lirnoux. Language was a hindrance but friendships were forged through a combination of sign language and the famous french shrug when it all became too hard. The squad were treated to a variety of experiences including a trip to the Mediterrancan, a trip to Andora and the serving of wine and potato chips at every meal (except our. nutritious. breakfasts).
The visit to " Le Cite " in Carcasonne was something to be remembered, and the.warm down by both teams (together) after the Test was "wot the game is all about".
It was truly a great experience and something that will always be remembered. The French are extremely keen to be here in 2000 as a schoolboys team and are already fundraising for the event.
The Irish. Mist
We were a bit concerned when told at Gatwick that Air Lingus had lost our plane, but it was somewhere in the terminal and we won't be delayed long. Then they overloaded it and managed to offload (and lose) some of our luggage. We finally arrived at Dublin - the people were great -.the bars incredible. Neil Woods , who is in charge of the student Rugby League in Great Britain was our host and he did a great job. He can talk. The place was waterlogged but we had a first real opposition and the team performed as expected. It was a worthwhile experience for the boys, they got to sample a totally different culture and their accommodation brought them very closely together (10 in a hostel room).
The English Experience
We were greeted in Manchester by Jackle and Alfic and they catered for our every need for the next few days whilst we were in Cumbria. We had a couple of great skills nights including the Pool Championship which was won by two truly skilful cuemen.
This hospitality was experienced again in Wigan , Widnes, Leeds and Hull in a variety of ways. The accommodation (with one exception) was excellent. A special mention must go to Andy Gore at the Ever lades Hotel, Widnes who was one of the nicest and most helpful people you could imagine. The local BARLA hosts went out of their way to. meet our needs.
The BARLA are in the process of amalgamating (for want of a better term) with The Rugby Football League and as you will hear, this was the cause of some uncomfortable situations which arose later. The game in Whitehaven was typical of the standard we struck in all County games; these however are the only opportunities for the BARLA boys to represent and they treasure the experience. The quality of Rugby League our boys played was greatly appreciated everywhere we went, the results secondary.
The Rugby Football League officials approached this tour with a different goal in mind. They had been preparing for us for months, had several players who were playing lst team football with Super League clubs and I believe, saw this as an opportunity to give. us a hiding. They tried every trick in the book leading into the Tests, including 40 minute halves in lead up games and a series of frivolous complaints. I won't say any more other than, I believe our players handled themselves with dignity when placed under pressure by opposition tactics and officials interpretations of rules. WE WON.
The 1999 Aussie Schoolboys
The best team I have ever been associated with, coached to perfection and prepared physically and mentally for an arduous tour.
Some absolute characters, some introverts but not one lemon.
I would have to mention Johnny Row who could bring out the best and worst in everybody - Justin Hodges who just could not keep the Goose shirt off his back - Clayto who struck up a conversation with every person he walked past - Branno & Braith who must be related - Albert, a genuine nice guy with a baggage problem - and Gaz and Daniel who put their hands up when it was needed-
Scott Thornton. proved to be the find of the Tour. His expertise was not lost on any of the touring party. I thank Scatt very much as hope that we can use his skills again in the future.
Mark proved to be the coach Australian Schoolboys Teams deserve. He was both respected and admired by all in the touring party. His only failure was to teach me how to play rummy but not how to win.
Peter is not a nice bloke. Just ask the boys on the second day of camp. He has the ability to peak players but not over-train them. It was a credit to him and Scott that we were virtually injury free on tour. He enjoys a night out too!
Michael provided not only the organisational skills necessary but the touches of humour and comic relief which could cause tense situations or simply make him a candidate for the goose award.
OVERALL, A TRULY GREAT EXPERIENCE - THANKS EVERYONE INVOLVED
IN ASSRLC FOR PROVIDING THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ME
Last Modified on 13/07/2004 22:59