USA Rugby Tour – Final Post
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.
The rugby was an important aspect of the tour and the coaches and players took each fixture extremely seriously. After each game, the coaches gave feedback to each player, which the players were expected to record in their tour diaries alongside reflections of the games and their own performances. But the most special outcomes for all on the tour were the experiences each member had beyond the pitch. It was the conversations after the matches with opponents, coaches and billet families. It was excursions to iconic sites like U.S.P. Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Universal Studios and Santa Monica Pier. It was the cultural exchange had between adolescent boys and girls through the billet programs that our hosts facilitated.
From the journey home, here is a snippet of the reflections of the tour.
What was your highlight of the trip?
Nick Cave: Universal Studios was so good – the amount of money that goes into filming the movies we watch and the special effects. It was a great trip. Also, the billeting was fun. This was my first time overseas and I really enjoyed the experience. The Granite Bay families were fantastic; we went to Rocklin High School. The family we were with was quite well off – the son drove a BMW to school.
Ben Horsley: Billeting in Sacramento was my favourite part of the trip. Meeting new people and getting to know them was awesome. I’ll definitely keep in touch with them. I went to school, Rocklin High School. It was very relaxed – they could use their phones in class, there was a lot of freedom. They didn’t wear a uniform and, of course, the co-ed nature of it was different. A good different.
Andrew McKinnon: To be a student-athlete, for some, is a way of getting a better life or at least set your life up. For me, the highlights were seeing “Cal” Berkeley and Stanford universities and, not only the amount of investment into sports and their athletes but also the rigorous recruitment or acceptance regime and the high level of achievement these students are expected to maintain.
Ted Vary: I really love movies and I loved going to Hollywood – the walking tour around Hollywood; it was great seeing the different places where things were filmed, the famous landmarks and climbing the mountain (Runyon Canyon Park); the corner store where that scene from Hancock was filmed.
Henry Wunsch: The billets were awesome, especially the Granite Bay ones. We lived a day in the life of the Granite Bay school kids. I went with one of my billet’s mates to a driving range. Their hospitality was one of the best things and I have already continued to keep in touch with them.
Dave Enfantie: So many. Walking to the Golden Gate Bridge at dawn. There were only three people around: myself, Jono Farrell and Michael McNamara. We’d got up early and the day was clear and the bridge stood there in all its glory. Also, the climb up through the Runyon Canyon Park was great. The view of Los Angeles was spectacular. The city is huge.
What differences or similarities did you notice about Australians and Americans?
Nick Shannon: This was my first time overseas. The experience of going to a different country and seeing what it was like was great. Meeting different families and seeing how they lived their life was awesome. It’s a bit different to what I am used to, their school is really different – they have music playing while their teacher was teaching, they were allowed on their phones in class, they can walk out of class and eat in class when they feel like it. I went to Rocklin High School with my billet. It was great. I’d love to go overseas again.
Tom Kelk: Very different to Australia – everything is a lot bigger and in some ways better. More advanced technology, for example. In some circumstances, it seems to be one step ahead of Australia. Going over, I didn’t know how to feel. It was my first time overseas. It looked different, but I enjoyed that side of it I was excited to be in a new area altogether.
How would you rate the experience from a rugby perspective?
Andrew McKinnon: A lot of the young boys have had a real crack on this tour and some of them have made a real case for inclusion in the First XV. I’ve been really impressed with some of the combinations that I’ve seen forming and that has given me, as a coach of the First XV, a good indication of potential selections. The boys have been tested physically. They’ve been tested and they’ve done well. There haven’t been many tries scored against us and I’ve been really pleased with that.
Ted Vary: It was really good to be able to try new things: new patterns and moves. The other teams were big and strong and can sometimes dominate the breakdown, but the backs carved up, they were too strong. It’s definitely a growing sport – in the short time over there, a lot of the billets were saying that it is a sport that is really growing in popularity. The whole trip was really well organised and there no real hiccups. A few minor ones but, as Dave Enfantie kept saying to us: “that’s travelling, fellas. You’ve just to go with the flow”.
Nick Cave: They haven’t played as much rugby as us. We’ve grown up playing rugby and the structure that we are used to stood out. It helped us dominate onfield. If they played as much as us it would be a lot harder; they were big and they were physical. They’d take it to us if they grew up playing the sport.
Dave Enfantie: We weren’t stretched overly on tour, on the field, but the tour was a great success because the team improved and the bonds that have been obviously strengthened is something I’m really looking forward to building on as the season progresses.
It was an experience neither the coaches nor the students will forget. We have all been privileged to be part of “USA Rugby Tour 2018”. Thank you to everyone who made the tour possible, and especially to the Headmaster for his support in what was a worthwhile experience.