Thursday 16th & Friday 17th May 2013
Two days on the bus to Hiroshima via Kobe, so not much world-breaking news to report. Peter Sweeney has posted the earlier reports on the Australian Masters website but, so far as I can see, there have not been a lot of 'hits' -well, in fact the haven't been any at all !!! And anyway who wants to read about a bunch of geriatric hockey players.
The Japanese landscape passes by, hills, mountains,trees, lakes, tunnels, the sea, islands and bridges. There is time to reflect. Sixteen are here to play hockey - no mystery as to why they have come , but what about the others ? Why have they come? What's in it for them ? First of all, there's Coach Bob Claxton who has brought his stick along just in case he might get a game on the turf in the event of multiple team injuries. But, like all coaches, we think that Clacko is on the holy grail of Masters Hockey - coaching a gold medal World Cup team, and Japan is just a stepping stone. Then there is Manager Ric Roberts, former Australian Masters player, who is clearly intent on giving something back to the game. His contribution, together with that of John Watts, towards the planning of this tour, to spread the word of Masters Hockey around the globe, has been nothing short of outstanding. It has been three years in the making, with an eleventh hour cancellation of the 2011 tour following the tsunami. Lesser men would have thrown in the towel, but Ricco started all over again! Except for the Japanese classes, Ric went back to the drawing board and his organisational skills down to the last detail have been nothing short of amazing. Travelling umpire Ian Grant, like Ric a one-time Australian Masters player, has hockey in the veins. He polices the turf with quiet authority, an admonishment to a player that questions his decision, but if that player repeats the same indiscretion, then Ian will grant the individual five minutes in the naughty chair ! And then we come to that the most interesting gentleman Michael Craig - what's he doing here ? Well, officially, he has the title of Hockey Consultant. Now, for a person who reached the pinnacle of hockey more than five decades ago, you would think that giving advice to a bunch of old try-hard has-beens might have been just a little frustrating. However, if one was to have a glance at his CV, you begin to realise that he has an affinity for the country of Japan, having turned his hand to coaching and been national coach to the Japan Men's and Women's teams for several years, and for some time was Coach to the Coaches. Mike is a lateral thinker with respect to the game and has that knack of being able to pass on a little of his expertise to individual players to help them improve their Hockey game. He is indeed the hockey " Guru". Lastly, we have Nigel Friend, team physio, not even a hockey player ! He takes leave from his physio practice and comes on tour - voluntary work, spends part of his day having to view some grotesque elderly gentlemen disrobe and present some part of their anatomy for him to rub, massage, and then tape it all together so that they don't fall apart like matchstick figures when they run into an opponent - he is indeed a friend for all !
We stop overnight in Kobe , home of Japanese beef, and some take a short walk to the harbourtown shops and cafes, while the more adventurous take the shuttle bus from the harbour side hotel and head down town. Back on the road again in the morning and, reminiscent of the circuitous route from Perth to KL, we pander to Manager Ric who needs his ''fix' for the day - which is apparently produced by a surfeit of bridges. Bridges, bridges, more bridges as we island hop. But the scenery past which we speed in the bus is nothing short of magnificent. We make Hiroshima by nightfall - we have arrived at the peaceful city.