Monthly Archives: April 2018
The Toowoomba Grammar School tour arrived in Queensland after a fortnight on the road in the United States of America playing rugby union. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves in this job … taking young men abroad, many for the first time, to play a sport that we are all passionate about.
Those on the tour will say that the tour was a success and that they loved every minute of it. For those new to international adventure, the travel bug has certainly embedded itself within each tourist. TGS played 10 matches against teams in California. Three in San Francisco (one of which was a travelling team from Ohio), four in Sacramento, two in San Diego and one in Los Angeles. Some opponents were club teams, some were school teams, some were school teams actually made up of players from different schools in an area. Continue reading
On the USS Essex, a Wasp Class Aircraft Carrier that is currently docked in San Diego, there is a dining hall that feeds thousands of people three meals a day. It is a quarter of the size of Toowoomba Grammar School’s Centenary Dining Hall, yet it’s kitchen is three times the size. Chief of Staff, Captain Brian Quin said the Essex dining hall has bettered its operations since he has been involved with the vessel and credits the improvements to a simple mantra: gather the ingredients for success and act with precision and style. It’s a message that has struck a chord with the players and coaches of Toowoomba Grammar School as they have continued their journey around the state of California. Continue reading
Game update – Sacramento
California’s ascendency to become the 31st state of America in 1850 owes its thanks to the Gold Rush and the hundreds of thousands of “forty-niners” who migrated to it in search of their fortune a year earlier. What it needed as a member of the Union was a capital and a government; it took a decade for a capital to be agreed upon, and a lot of trial-and-error attempts to set an agreeable location.
Monterey, Pueblo de San Jose, Sacramento, Vallejo and Benicia all had a go in pursuit of the prestige, power and wealth that would be guaranteed as the capital city. But ultimately the Capitol building in Sacramento had been commissioned and the legislators permanently based themselves there from 1861. Sacramento was Toowoomba Grammar School’s second stop on its rugby tour of California. A tour of the Capitol building was a highlight of the team’s four days there – seeing the portrait of the “Governator” – the third commissioned, it is believed, and by far the largest of any of California’s Governors.
The tourists had two fixtures against three different school teams in Sacramento and were billeted by local families the entire time. On Wednesday, April 4, many of the boys went to school with their billets. Most went to Rocklin High School, but others visited Roseville and Del Oro high schools. The teachers, support staff and students commented that the TGS boys were extremely polite and engaging, whilst the Grammar boys enjoyed the differences of American schooling compared to their own. The obvious differences were that there was no uniform required, that the schools were co-educational and that during many of the classes background music is played during lessons.
For the first fixture, TGS played two different teams. The first game was against Granite Bay (a well-drilled unit made up of players from the Granite Bay area). Will Chaffey led TGS in the first match, a tough hit-out against yet another physical side. Leading 31-7 at half-time, the visitors managed to keep their hosts scoreless in the second-half and finished eventual winners 63-7. The second match was against CK McClatchy. TGS, skippered by Tom Rinaldis ground out a 12-12 tie. A try in the final minutes of the match evened the scores.
The second fixture was against Jesuit High School, the 2017 National Champions. Jesuit has produced several international rugby players and is fortunate to have former US Eagles captain and three-time Rugby World Cup player Louis Stanfill among their coaching ranks. Louis is also an old boy of Jesuit, a “Cal” Berkeley player and has a passion for growing the game in California.
For the first game against Jesuit, Tom Cole took the reins on a wet day. TGS built on a 26-3 lead to claim a 41-15 win at full-time. The muddy conditions made for some tough rugby; TGS’s structure in defence was the deciding factor. Bill Perrignon captained the second match against a spirited local outfit. With the rain subsiding for the match, the Grammar players decided to play a slightly more expansive game and it paid off. A 43-5 lead at half-time was extended to 60-17 at full-time.
After the match, both teams sat down to pasta, salad and dessert at Jesuit and the boys from both teams mixed well. The coaches reminisced that this camaraderie was what made rugby such an enjoyable sport to be part of. What made it even more exciting for the TGS boys was that some of their Granite Bay hosts (and some other students they had met in their day-trip to the schools of Sacramento) travelled to Jesuit to watch them play.
The coaches and the players felt extremely fortunate to have been so welcomed into Sacramento’s rugby community and hope that the relationships developed will continue long into the future.
Lineout against Jesuit High School
Angus Clark try against Jesuit High School
Tom Cole leading the team against Jesuit High School
Contesting a lineout against Granite Bay Rugby Club
TGS V SFGG RFC
At one end of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge lies the awkwardly named Treasure Island. It looks like it used to be a military base of some sorts; the sort of cannon you’d expect to see on a Vietnam War battleship sits abandoned adjacent to a warehouse that also looks unused.
At night, the artificial island offers unfettered views of San Francisco. And as we drove off the island after two wins against San Francisco’s Golden Gate Rugby Club, the city looked splendid.
Toowoomba Grammar School had two fixtures against a club side with a culture that was as proud as its history. San Francisco Rugby Club was born in 1966 and the Golden Gate club was born in 1988; the pair merged in 2001 and have played passionately in local competitions, across America (in the Rugby Super League) and abroad.
And so it was that this international reach continued with TGS.
The first match kicked off at 4.30pm on April 3; captain Jake Sargood led his team out for the opening rubber of the School’s US Rugby Tour and the flyhalf had great success helping his team to a 39-5 win. Second-rower Will Chaffey crossed for the team’s first five-pointer after just 90 seconds. It wasn’t all the visitors’ way, though, a big front row and some hard-running back-rowers gave the Grammarians something to think about. Golden Gate’s scrum presented the hosts with some promising structure, but Grammar’s organised defence held them out.
Allister Cameron was elusive; Tom Cole was ever-ready in attack and defence; Angus Clark was hustling well; Callum Lyons defended like he was protecting the island’s treasure; and, Bill Perrignon took the advantage line at will.
Tries: Chaffey; Lyons, Simpson; Cole; Clark; Kleidon and Cameron; conversions: Sargood (2).
Bailey Skeates led TGS into Game 2 against a spirited opposition, claiming a 64-0 victory. Grammar had the momentum from the opening seconds; barnstorming second-rower Hamish Muller scoring after just 45 seconds. Muller was at the end of some sneaky work around the ruck from his scrumhalf Wilson Cochrane; Cochrane flicking a behind-the-back ball to Muller who fell over the try-line opening Grammar’s account.
The hosts then made the mistake of kicking in Muller’s direction at the restart; Muller carried the ball 50 metres, through 5 would-be defenders to score his second of three tries under the posts. The backs then had a field day – wingers Macauley Adamson (2) and Finn Campbell added to the total as did Skeates, Cochrane and flyhalf Baxter Franey with one apiece. Forwards Finley Whittle, Ted Vary and George Wunsch extended the margin to 64 points.
Tries: Muller (3); Adamson (2); Skeates; Cochrane; Campbell; Franey; Vary; Whittle; Wunsch. Conversions: Franey (2).
Earlier in the day, the tourists visited Ivy League university: Stanford. The boys were shown the state-of-the-art facilities at the world-renowned institution, impressed with the space dedicated to all kinds of sports. The aquatic centre consisted of four, maybe five pools – two Olympic size and a couple of diving pools/water polo pools. The baseball diamond was beautifully manicured; the basketball arena was a (slightly) smaller version of Oracle Stadium, where just the night before the boys had witnessed the Golden State Warriors beat the Phoenix Suns. Then there was the tennis complex, which had produced players like the McEnroes (Pat and John) and the Bryan brothers, one of the most successful doubles pairings the professional circuit has ever seen. Appropriately, one of the highlights was the newly constructed “Home of Champions” an impressive facility dedicated to lauding the achievements of the School’s athletes.
Stanford has an annual undergraduate acceptance rate of 8 per cent; only 15,000 students learn there. Its academic excellence is mirrored with a highly successful athletics program.
Rugby head coach Josh Sutcliffe, a South Australian, hosted the squad for a session of games, a brief question and answer session and the best lunch the boys have had on tour, in one of Stanford’s dining halls.
The players left satisfied and, having shopped up a storm in the College gift shop, with some mementoes for themselves, family and friends.
The next day … April 4, 2018. Game 2
On Tuesday morning, after the players spent the night with billet families from the Golden Gate Rugby Club, Toowoomba Grammar School played another touring team, the boys from St Edward’s High School, Ohio.
Captain James Kleidon led the team to a hard-fought and gutsy 43-15 win over the aggressive and enthusiastic Americans. Neither side took control over the other early in the first half; the game characterised by its physicality and tight defence. St Edward’s showed a great willingness to attack from the base of the ruck; pick-and-drives their major mode of transport towards the try-line. And they came close several times, eventually crossing in about the 20th minute. Before that, Ronin Hassall had scored a brace of five-pointers; the first a No.8 solo move from the base of a centre-field scrum; the second a 40-metre charge through four would-be tacklers.
TGS entered the second-half with confidence attacking wider than they had in the first half. This paid off with the Australians scoring two quick tries down the right wing. Although the Ohio travellers crossed for a second try mid-way through the second half, Toowoomba Grammar School proved too strong in the end.
Tries: Hassell (2), Vary (2), Perry, Sargood, Franey; Conversions: Sargood (3), Franey.
“If you disobey the rules of society, they send you to prison. If you disobey the rules of prison, they send you to us.” – Patrick McGoohan, warden, U.S.P. Alcatraz, in the Hollywood film Escape from Alcatraz.
Alcatraz draws its name from the Spanish translation for Island of the Pelicans. Now under the stewardship of the National Parks Conservancy, Alcatraz has been used for a variety of functions since the mid-1800s, most notably and famously as a prison. And it was those who it kept from society that the boys on the Toowoomba Grammar School rugby tour were so keen to learn about on their jail tour on Easter Sunday.
From 1859 to 1933 it was a military prison, whilst from 1934 to 1963 it was a Federal Penitentiary facility, (un)affectionately known as “The Rock”. More than 1500 men served time on U.S.P. Alcatraz, America’s first Maximum Security jail. The tour quietly and solemnly trod the blocks of “The Rock”; the boys wondered how criminals survived in such conditions and idealised a potential escape. They walked “Michigan Avenue”, which sat between A and B blocks, “Broadway Avenue” which kept secure those between B and C blocks; and “Seedy Street”, which housed the criminals in C Block and those in solitary confinement in D Block
They heard the story about the criminal who, upon serving days on end in the blacked out solitary confinement cell, would take a button off his outfit, flick it in the air, hear it drop to the wrought iron floor, and spend the next little while trying to find it. Many of the boys were captivated by the man who found enormous pleasure in the flickering light. Juston Free mentioned how amazing it was that, in this criminal’s flickering light, he could imagine a television and could, therefore, watch his favourite TV show to while away the loneliness and the hunger.
They learned of escape attempts – the many who failed and the odd escapee who had never been found. “They were killed”, surmised a prison guard upon reflection of the trio Frank Morris and his comrades, the Anglin brothers, Clarence and John. “They ended up in South America, I reckon”, concluded one of their fellow inmates.
Cells 138, 150 and 152 of B-Block were homes to these men, but they broke into infamy with their escape, made famous by the ingenuity shown using 30+ standard dessert spoons. According to a $1 pamphlet handed out to the boys at the jail, Morris and the Anglin brothers escaped through the air vents they had enlarged by chipping away the cement with homemade electric drills; drills they had fabricated by removing the heads of the spoons. Upon vacating their cells, the trio had left dummy heads in their beds to deceive the guards during the night time head counts.
Alcatraz was a sobering experience for the boys. After any tourist destination there is a gift shop, but this one had a special difference. On the day the boys attended, former Alcatraz inmate Bill Baker, AZ#1259, was there signing copies of the book. He told this author that he hadn’t forgiven the guards who looked over him. They got on, but they hadn’t apologised, and he hadn’t forgiven them.
In the evening, the boys enjoyed an experience of a different kind, a professional sporting event, the NBA match between the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns. The Suns entered the match having lost 14 straight matches. Off to a strong start the home side led the Suns going into the first quarter break of the Star Wars themed night. But that didn’t last and some strong minutes by the visitors saw the Warriors trailing by 15 points. The end outcome was 117 – 107 to the Warriors and, by far, the best performers were Kevin Durant and the hip-hop dancing Stormtroopers.
March 31, 2018
Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA.
A line of rugby boots, 20 pairs-strong, sit waiting, drying in haste before they’re worn again. Clumps of grass sit dispensed on the step outside; remnants of the first training session Toowoomba Grammar School’s rugby squad has endured on US soil.
It was a crisp morning, that of Saturday, March 31, the squad’s first full day of its California tour. A thick fog had settled on San Francisco overnight, hiding the Golden Gate Bridge and, well, everything, actually. It was no surprise, then, that the bay’s Ferries had resorted to foghorn messages throughout the night (at least it provided alternate sounds to the sleep-talking and snoring of the players).
The morning was brisk; 50 degrees in the local tongue. After a continental breakfast the touring squad trudged through the wet parks of San Francisco’s Fort Mason to a large rectangular park; green, weedy, but perfectly formed. It was waterside and ideal for footy. This was our training spot.
Local onlookers, captivated by a recognisable, but unfamiliar footy code, watched on, sidled by Antipodean expats who reminisced about the game they used to watch as a matter of course. Coach Dave Enfantie took the forwards to a corner of the park for a line-out session, while Andy McKinnon commandeered the backs through their moves. A forwards versus backs touch footy game followed – the players were bristling with the enthusiasm of playing overseas and excited about the day ahead.
Seafood chowder and burgers at fast food restaurant In-n-Out were on the lunch menu and a trip to the University of California, Berkeley was scheduled for the afternoon. And what a trip that was.
Legendary American rugby identity Tom Billups, a former Eagles hooker and captain, who also went on to coach the national side, took the squad on a tour of the “Cal” campus. Jaws dropped as soon as the tourers got off the bus, for the meeting spot was at the foot of the California Memorial Stadium, a 63,000-seat monstrosity of a playing arena, situated within the University grounds (and on a tectonic plate fault line). It was enormous, and the boys commented as such. Touring Flyhalf Baxter Franey imagined himself running downfield, ball in hand on the astro-turf field; Angus Clark dreamt of the fans who would have been there to witness his play.
Tom led the squad through Witter Rugby Field, the home of “Cal” rugby; an idyllic setting at the base of Strawberry Canyon. He gave the boys a snapshot of the history of the university club. He spoke about the role Americans played in designing the modern-day rugby scrum; an incidental evolution of re-starting the game after an indiscretion like a knock-on. He recounted that when there was a knock on, each side would pack down; any old players would be used. If the new attacking team nominated four players, the offenders had to pack down opposite with the same amount of players. The Kiwis were smart; they pushed with nominated players, and they were usually the bigger guys. Instead of just getting the three or four closest, they got the biggest. And they added value, by positioning players behind those front rowers.
“Cal” is one of the world’s top learning institutions. It is highly competitive – for this year’s July intake, “Cal” fielded around 83,000 applicants and could only offer places to 14% of those. The competitiveness ensured the cream of the crop from the student ranks and Tom encouraged the hard-working Toowoomba Grammar School rugby players to consider a future there. And with the multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art high-performance sports facilities, the players’ interest was piqued.
With plenty of training sessions ahead, the boys called an end to the night dreaming of what could be at “Cal” and what might become of the rest of the tour. With high spirits and buoyant moods, the boys looked forward to pulling on their boots once again, and showing the Americans what they were made of.
Toowoomba Grammar School plays two matches against the Golden Gate Rugby Club on April 2nd. Bailey Skeates and Jake Sargood have been named captains for their respective teams. Stay tuned for more updates.