Mater Maria & Palm Beach

Breakfast is at 7.30am – croissants with bacon and cheese filling with beans and the normal selection of cereals, toasts and drinks etc. A few make it but not many.


We are checking out at 8.30am as we need to be in Mater Maria for assembly by 9.00am. Surprise, surprise, bus 2 is late!!


While we are loading, I go and settle our bill. When we arrived we had been told that activities had to be paid for additionally. As we would be off site during the day we didn’t need things for them to do then. However, we didn’t want boredom to be an issue during the evenings, so we booked ‘night games’ for the Friday night, a ‘night hike’ for Saturday night and a 3D film for Sunday night. I order them and aim to pay for them out of the ’emergency fund’. The night games and night hike were to cost $17 per head and the 3D film $10 per head.


On the first evening, we had gone to the night games took place in the auditorium and involved two members of staff coming in and organising a serious of party games like ‘Simon Says’ and ‘Tag’. We enjoy the hour and a half, but it goes well mainly because the students have a positive attitude to it, rather than the fact that the activities are engaging. However, at a cost of over $1000 (nearly £600) the price being charged is extortionate. I inform both the duty managers, Graham and Vanessa of our feelings during the weekend and both say ‘it is out of our hands’ and I would need to speak the manager.


I ask to see the manager before we leave on Monday morning and I reiterate to him that to have to pay such a sum simply for the labour costs of two men for an hour and a half was extortionate. He gave all sorts of arguments about ‘other costs’, none of which held any sway with me, as the auditorium was pre-booked for our personal use and no resources were required other than the labour. I felt that the money from our activity was being used to subsidise the centre’s costs in other areas and again told him so.


Anyway, I wasn’t going to refuse to pay and duly did so using my card. It was declined – ‘there I said even HSBC think that the amount you’re charging is extortionate!’.


Obviously the amount exceeded the individual transaction limit on my card. I was able to settle the account by using the long number etc. on the card. I will take up the issue with the travel company and the Salvation Army on our return.


That payment means we have exhausted the first £2000 that has been transferred into my account. I have arranged for a second transfer of a similar amount which should be enough to see us to the end of the tour.


Needless to say, after our experience on the first evening we had cancelled the night hike and the 3D film and made our own arrangements for the Saturday and Sunday evenings.


We board Bus 1 and when we leave at 8.45am, Bus 2 has still not arrived. Bus 1 arrives at Mater Maria on time, and we ring back to check on it’s progress. They have just set off. Assembly had started in school, but they were understanding of our predicament and would wait for the others – a good job because Trystan Williams was on Bus 2.


We enter assembly at 9.20am and are introduced, our captains Tom Northey, Cameron Lewis (who speaks on behalf on Sam Cambriani who has a sore throat), Charleigh Baker and Holly Breeze-Jones all speak confidently, presenting themselves and the school impressively. We finish by singing the anthems. Trystan is a ‘wow’, he sings the verse and we join in with the chorus, and as I gaze around the audience you can see the wonderment on their faces at his skill.


Two girls lead the Australian anthem supported by the rest of the school. The singing of both anthems is a very warm 5 minutes and confirmation of both the strong bond and links between both the schools and the two countries.


We say our goodbyes at around 10am and head for Palm Beach. When we get there they are filming Home and Away down on the beach – we chat with the crew and they are filming now what will be shown in the UK around Christmas (we are 8 weeks behind).


One of the heart throbs of the show is spotted by Miss Rushworth, Heath Braxton is there – Helen, my wife, will be jealous.


During our hour we have some brunch and leave a little later than hoped at 11.20am. We return to Mater Maria by 11.45am and put the kick off for the U16 game back to 12.15pm. The hockey, netball and open rugby games are all due to be played during the lunch hour, so there are very healthy crowds watching all of them. A number of classes are released to watch the U16 game, so a decent number are there to watch that match too.


During the game Miss Smitham and Miss Rushworth were seated nearer some of the Mater Maria boys who overheard them referring to ‘the handsome one’ throughout the game. They were commenting on how good ‘the handsome one’ was and every time he had the ball, they cheered on ‘the handsome one’. Eventually they realised they were referring to our number 12, Sam Cambriani – he has a local fan base.


We win the rugby and hockey games and lose the netball.

Mater Maria 0 – Gowerton U16’s 42
POTM – Cameron Lewis

Mater Maria 7 – Gowerton U18’s 28
POTM – Ethan Harris

Mater Maria 1 – Gowerton Hockey 3
POTM – Freya Fleming

Mater Maria 35 – Gowerton Netball 4
POTM – Miriam Higgs

Match reports and videos can be viewed elsewhere.


As always our main consideration is for the people we meet and the relationships we establish rather than the results of the fixtures which are there to give the tour focus.


Never mind Home and Away, during the game our touch line could have been used to film an episode of Holby City with 4 of our players requiring attention at hospital. All do not seem too series, but we feel that it is best to get them all checked out at the hospital which is a 10 minute taxi drive away. We take Jacob Ireland, Miriam Higgs, Lloyd Dudley-Jones and Tom Ham to A&E.


Jacob has an x-ray on his shoulder – nothing is broken it is just badly bruised and put in a sling for protection.

Lloyd has an x-ray on his ankle, no break just a sprain and it is strapped up.


Miriam has a cut inside her lower lip where her tooth had broken the skin – no need for a stitch as mouth injuries generally heal without them.


Tom’s ear has split where it joins the skull but it is a difficult position to stitch so they use glue to keep it in place.

All are well otherwise and Miriam and Jacob are back at school by 2.30pm in time to go home with Mater Maria students for the afternoon.
After all the matches, pupils return to the changing rooms before being allocated to a hosting partner. The girls changing room was like a beauty counter at Debenhams- with make up and perfume engulfing the room. As they emerged down the steps- it looked like a runway from the London fashion week! The boys, however emerged covered in mud.


Mike Rulli, the rugby coach at Mater Maria, read out the student’s names and all our students were paired with a pupil from Mater Maria for a few hours. Hand shakes and hugs will lead- no doubt the start of many close friendships.


Tom and Lloyd do not return until nearly 6pm. They are able to use the showers to freshen up and are ready for 6.30pm when all the Mater Maria students and ours return to school for a band and sausage sizzler. We hold the post match presentations first.


Whilst the students are socialising, the Mater Maria staff have ordered a Thai takeaway meal and the staff retire to the staff room where we enjoy something to eat, a chat and a drink.


Mater Maria are coming over to the UK in September and we will be doing similar for them then.


Our coaches are due to pick us up at 9pm and when we walk to the bus bays surprise, surprise, one of them is not there.


We load bus 2 and it sets off for the Menzies. At 9.15pm bus 1 has not arrived and as we have the drivers number we ring him – he had fallen asleep whilst watching TV.


We wake him and he is with us by 9.30pm. He brings us good news; Rhys Baker’s wallet, that had been lost 2 days earlier had been found. Rhys was relieved and so were we, as we would not need to spend time at the police station reporting its loss.


Even better news Jack Soproniuk’s wallet has also been found – it was discovered in Shanaye Grant’s suitcase.


It also emerged when Jack had gone with Mr Thomas to the police station to report its loss, he had to be interviewed over the phone by a police officer elsewhere. Jack had been asked if he lived in New South Wales but Jack realising our proud history back in the UK proudly responded “No, I’m from Old South Wales” – donkey of the day nomination.


Bus 2 had arrived at the Menzies by 10.15pm some have the time and energy to go for a swim and to the sauna, but generally all are very tired and go to their rooms for an early night.


We arrange an early morning call for 8.30am with breakfast available before we meet in the lobby at 9.45am for our flight to Brisbane.

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