We are up at 7.00am and check out of the Newport Arms by 8.00am. The coach collects us and transports us to the school by 8.15am.
The students arrive gradually and are all smiling. We have to drag them on to the bus as they have enjoyed themselves so much and want to say goodbye. Particularly Rob James who leaves clutching a letter he has been given by a young lady he has befriended whilst he’s been here.
Mater Maria will be coming to the UK with a sports and cultural tour in October 2014. I’m sure our parents and students would love to host them for a fifth time. The problem is that the recently revised child protection policy of the Catholic Diocese means that the Catholic schools are not allowed to be hosted by or host overseas schools. We were only allowed to stay with them because the visit had been pre-arranged a while ago.
If hosting is not allowed in the future, it will in my opinion be a very sad day. The experience for the students will be much poorer for them without the exchange that occurs between hosts and billets. Just as importantly, the students will in fact be less safe if they are kept in a hotel under the care of a small number of teachers who are not really aware of the dangers in that local area rather than if they were staying with families who are able to cater and care for their needs on a much more individual basis as well as having a much better appreciation of safety in the area.
We make our way into Sydneyand arrive at the Circular Quay by 10.15am. En route we sing ‘Happy birthday’ to Molly Kabia-17 today. She has had a card from dad that tells her that he has booked her driving lessons for when she returns. She is very excited. She also has a card from her uncle. It says ‘Hope you have a good time in New Zealand’-no comment!!!
Without exception our students have had a fantastic time. Rob James’ time here had not only been enhanced by the meeting of his new lady friend, but his host had also been a chef and he had been really well looked after.
Jessica Rees is feeling a little better, but we still feel it’s best to take her to the chemist who prescribes a Lemsip or similar. We ring ahead to Ascham to tell them she is a little under the weather with a cold. Nicola Harding at Ascham tells me that she is paired to stay with Alycia Carpanini and that the host family are very nice and will take care of her.
Bethany Davies had spilt raspberry juice over her school blouse at the reception in Mater Maria and didn’t expect it to come out in the wash. However, her host had googled to find out what could be done and the blouse had come out ‘white as new’ after the host had washed it.
As punishment for their indiscretion in Hong Kong, the girls who had been drinking in their room in Hong Kong were not allowed to take part in jet boating. The rest were organised into three groups. Miss Rushworth’s and Miss Jeffreys’ group went first at 11.00am. When they returned, Nia Devonald, Emma Kieft and Ailsa Howells were all excited. “That was easily the best thing we have done on tour” they said.
Callum and Lewis Macdermott were unfortunate to be sat in the seats that got wettest-not pre-planned honestly!! I had already asked if there was a special seat for our birthday girl-Molly. As we watch the boat leaving with groups 3 and 4, Molly is seated in one of the ‘wet’ seats and Mr Lewis, who had said he was a little nervous about the experience was in the other one. The prospects of a dry trip were not good for them both!!!
While the first groups had been out in the harbour, Hannah Williams had turned to Miss Jeffreys and said “I’m not wet at all.” She spoke to soon-30 seconds later she was absolutely soaked.
Tom Froom had a really good and expensive waterproof camera that he could strap to his head that would take a video of the jet boating. About a minute after they set out-the battery went!!!!
Mr Walters and my group are last out between 12.00 and 12.30pm and when we return we all have some lunch in Circular Quay or the Rocks and meet at 1.15pm to transfer to our next hosts NewingtonCollege for the boys and Ascham Collegefor the girls. The boys are dropped off first at about 2.00pm and the girls continue on to Ascham.
At Newington, we meet the sports co-ordinator, Mark Dickens. The facilities at the school are unbelievable, but Mark tells me that they are concerned that they are not good enough and the newly appointed Head of Sport’s main task was to improve them. They have 4 rugby pitches on site and two football pitches. Those are the main winter sports. In the summer, rowing, cricket and water polo are the major sports.
The school has around 1200 pupils, all boys. They have 7 Australian schools’ rugby internationals in their 1st XV and their football teams are regularly state champions. They have 25 rugby teams between 14 and 18 that play every Saturday and each age group has 6 teams. We are to play a combination of their second and third XVs, which is a relief as we are tired after yesterday’s exertions and both Rhys Cherry and Morgan Curtis are not fit to play, while Tom Wedlake and Shane Harris will start but may not complete the game.
Joel Young is fit (to our relief) and will play in the back row (to his relief).
The general facilities at the school are fantastic and it has a proud history with this year being its 150th anniversary. Annual fees for day pupils are $25,000 (£17,000) while boarders have to pay double that amount.
With the kick off not due until 4.00pm, we have some time to spare. The Newingtonstudents are in lessons until just after 3.00pm, so Mark opens the swimming pool for the lads to have a ‘dip’. That is probably the best thing to loosen up the joints and ease the aches and pains after yesterday.
We are out of the pool and changed by 3.30pm and make our way onto the main field to warm up. A crowd of between 3,000 and 4,000 had watched the 1st XV play in their local derby against Scots Collegeon that field on Saturday. Unfortunately, Newingtonhad lost.
At kick off, the hosts clearly have a physical advantage, but our lads , as has generally always been the case when we are on tour, step up to the mark defensively. At half time, the game is still scoreless, but that’s because both defences are unflinching, rather than as a result of the paucity of the attacking play. The ball is only kicked 3 or 4 times in total during the half, but with Marcus Besley and Richard Keefe both working tirelessly for us, neither side is able to break the deadlock.
In the 43rd and 54th minutes, the hosts crossed for two unconverted tries as Gowerton’s tiring defence began to fall off tackles. I thought that we would now succumb to the greater power of our opponents, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Inspired by the determination and work rate of Jack Cambriani we scored tries from Tom Wedlake that followed a break and 40 metre run by Jack in the 58th minute. Then with 5 minutes left, a quick tapped penalty on half way by Tom saw him breach the defence, Joel Young was on hand to provide the link and Callum Macdermott chipped over the defence and won the race for the touchdown. Callum added both conversions to maintain his 100% kicking record in Australia.
That gave us a comfortable cushion, but with only minutes left on the clock a fantastic covering tackle from Keelan Giles was required to deny the hosts a winning score.
The final whistle was greeted with a muted response, which was unsurprising given the obvious fatigue. Against talented opponents, the team had produced one of its most memorable touring performances in any of its six southern hemisphere tours.
After the game, Jack Cambriani is our man of the match, whilst Newingtonpresented personalised school rugby balls to Sam Grunhut and Shane Harris as their winners of the forward and back of the match.
After a short presentation ceremony, our boys depart with their hosts. All apart from Tom Wedlake, who is to spend the two nights with the boarders. Many of the 1st XV are boarders and they were detailed to look after him. I spoke to and thanked many of the parents who were hosting our lads during the reception-they seemed really nice and only to keen to help.
We have had no news from the girls at Ascham, so assume that all must have gone well there.
We return to our hotel and have a meal in the restaurant before retiring to bed at about 11.00pm. Tomorrow is our last full day in Sydney, we were to make our way to Bondi beach with both the girls and boys on public transport (trains and buses) with a number of connections. However, we are advised that that could take an hour and a half each way and limit our time there, so we decide to hire a coach. It is expensive at $1,030 (£700), we pay for it from the contingency fund.
After Bondi, the boys will return with their hosts and the girls will play their fixtures at Ascham College.