I’ve arranged an early morning call for 6.30am, but I’m awake much earlier. Either the early night has recharged the batteries or I’m a little anxious about our ‘charges’ and hope all is going well with their billets.
I check my emails and mobile and no messages-phew! I post a note on the facebook site to inform parents that all appears to be well and receive a large number of replies from those back home who have already heard from their son or daughter and that they have settled well.
Before I go down for breakfast, I turn the TV on and the Singha 7s are on Fox Sports with Lucy Jones’s brother, Phil starting for the Ospreys and former student Will Jones also playing. It was great to see them playing so confidently on such a large stage that was being televised all over the world.
Despite getting down a little late due watching too much of the 7s, I still enjoy a hearty breakfast.
We are outside the hotel at 7.30am, however, neither bus is there. We are due to pick up the girls from Firbank and the boys from Harlequins at 8am.
The girls’ bus arrives at 7.45am and Miss Rushworth and Miss Smitham depart, but our bus doesn’t arrive until 8am. Dyson’s coach service has left a lot to be desired. We are over at Quins by 8.30am, but it’s cold, parents have not been able to wait for them as they had to get to work. Our lads are understandably a bit fed up that they have been outside waiting for us.
On the bus we head for Federation Square centre of Melbourne. I walk down the aisle and ask the lads about their hosting experiences-most say they have had a fantastic time and been really well looked after.
Tom Ham and Lloyd Dudley-Jones were staying with Matt Callaway. The house and food had been great and they’d be given a packed lunch for today. Tom said it was great to have his own room with a double bed and TV in his room.
Lewis Hyatt and Nick Williams had a similar story, although like a number of others, they had been quite cold in the house. Many houses in Melbourne don’t have central heating because it is rare that heating will be needed in the same way that we don’t have air conditioning.
Ben Brown and Ethan Harris said that everything was great-they were with Theo McGrath (who’s father was Scottish-from Glasgow). The family had a cat, who ‘loves Ben, but hates me’ said Ethan.
Steffan Tyrell, Sam Williams and Callum Carson were with Bryn Phillips-his Dad was from Rhondda and Welsh speaking. The family were really nice and Bryn had a pretty 18 year old sister. Steffan said “no good for us, we’re wifed up already Sir!”.
Kieran Charles and Luke Andrews were with the deputy headteacher who had two younger children. It was a nice house and they’d had their washing done.
Olly Smith and Trystan Williams were with Henry Schwartz. They were a really nice family, easy to talk with and very helpful. Dad was from America and mum was a New Zealander.
David Carpanini and Elliott Rees were very well looked after by Sean Coutts whose dad was an engineer in the Army.
Ryan Hughes and Joe Whitehorn stayed with Will O’Donoghue. Their washing was done as soon as they arrived and they were told to ‘make yourselves at home.’
Milo Fleming and Tom Northey were staying with Peter Ah Holt. They were a Samoan family with 10 in the family.
Sean Collins and Jacob Ireland stayed with the Cartwrights who were a really nice family.
Ethan Guy and Adam Fielding got on well with their billet-Matt Packham.
Joe Bright, Sam Cambriani and Rhys Edwards said they were in a fantastic house. It had a swimming pool and a tennis court. Doing their washing was easy-their was a laundry shoot in their bedrooms and they just threw the clothes in there. However, there were two problems: they had too much food and there was no wifi!!!!
Nathan Davies and Sam Jones stayed with Liam Kruger, they were a nice family and made sure they had plenty to eat.
Cameron Lewis and Declan Duckworth stayed with Neil Arrowsmith-they had a fantastic chilli when they arrived. They liked being hosted because they felt it was more personal.
It was a little cold for Ehsan Yadollahi and Sam Nicholson, but the family was very friendly.
Olly Quick and Max Treharne stayed with Sebastian Oliver. Mum was Chilean and they lived in a nice house.
Aled Simons and Jack Soproniuk were with really nice people and enjoyed a meal of chicken and chips.
Iwan Richards and Rhys Baker said their host was quiet and it was a little cold, but that they were nice people.
We arrive at Federation Square at 10am and allow the lads some free time in the city. There are plenty of opportunities to shop or get something to eat. They are to meet back at 4pm.
Conditions had been so wet yesterday that rather than ask the players to take their kit back to their billets to wash, we had collected it back after the game. We find a launderette and wash and dry it.
After lunch, we meet up with the girls in McDonalds. They are preparing to travel back to Firbank for the soccer.
I ask the girls about their hosting experiences, all are really enthusiastic about it, and most say that despite the excellent hotels we have stayed in, being hosted is much better. Shanaye Grant and Becca Williams are with a really nice family which included Nigel the cat. Shanaye was not happy-“It’s too healthy there and I’m aubergined out!!!!”
Chloe Watkins and Tiffany Thomas were together and Chloe was another who said the food was too healthy, “There’s too much spinach!!” Seriously though, she said, “The’s food’s lovely and we’re being really well looked after.”
Freya Fleming and Millie Steadman said that they were having a great time and really enjoyed the “Beef and Guinness pie and chocolate pudding.”
Kaitlyn Egan and Holly Breeze-Jones said the house they were staying in was ‘amazing’ so much so that they felt they were like ‘royalty’. The house had a tennis court, swimming pool and hot tub. They were collected after the game in ‘the Mercedes’. Whilst they were there, it was their host’s sister’s birthday. They were a very down to earth family.
Sam Hughes and Chloe Weatherley were a little cold and their billet was focussed on her studies and other activities. They watched her basketball training and rowing and really enjoyed the meal.
Amy Baldwin and Beth Dallimore hosts’ had family friends come over to see them. They had a home cooked meal of spaghetti bolognese. The mum was really nice and helped them to feel at ease straight away.
Charleigh Baker, Miriam Higgs and Grace Bevan-Hendry are having a great time and getting on well with their host.
Mr Long and I travel back to Firbank with Miss Smitham, Miss Rushworth and the girls for the ‘soccer’ and witness history being made as not only are the girls playing the school’s first ever football match in the southern hemisphere but they produce an outstandingly tenacious performance to win 3-1 (match report in match reports in Melbourne).
After the game they leave with their hosts in great spirits-although the result is not the most important thing, it certainly helps if you win. We return to the hotel to freshen up. Kevin and the Victoria schools staff and Peter and the Firbank staff are to take us out for a meal. They have saved our party so much by hosting our students that we tell them we should pay, but they won’t have it. They are not only fantastic hosts but very generous too.
Peter picks us up in a cab at 6.45pm and transports us to the restaurant. We have a fantastic meal-I enjoy a steak, I don’t know why, but whenever I eat steak in the Southern hemisphere it always tastes so much better than back home-this one is no exception. The others enjoy a selection from chicken, lamb, calamari and barramundi, they all go down equally well, especially Mr Lewis’s meal, he had the 1.2kg T-bone steak.
There is a really relaxed atmosphere and both Victoria Schools and Firbank are intending to tour the UK in 2018. I tell them they will be very welcome in our picturesque part of Wales, so expect Firbank to be arriving on our doorsteps in September 2018 and Victoria Schools in December.
Kevin and Peter drop us back to the hotel and we retire to bed relaxed after another hectic but enjoyable day.
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