19. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
27th June 2014 - A380 in the sky
I'm in the air flying over the The Netherlands - fourteen days has passed since we were standing together on the second step of the dais, receiving the silver medal trophy, and waving to the crowd. At that moment in time you could call us the 'bipolar' team, down in the depths dealing with defeat but, in the same moment, the ecstasy of winning the silver medal. As an English schoolboy playing rugby union, I used to dream of one day being picked for England and kicking a drop-goal at Twickenham with the crowd on their feet, but I'd always have left my playing shirt behind or the shoelace had broken or I had two left boots and I never got on the ground ...... and then I'd wake up ! And, anyway, they picked Jonny and it was he that kicked that drop goal in extra time that relegated the Wallabies to the silver medal position in the World Cup final. When I was twenty-seven I chose a new country and when I was forty-seven I chose a new sport. Hockey in Australia gave me new friends, first at my club. I got lucky playing for my State and found a whole group of new friends. Then I got lucky again and made a whole lot more new friends playing for my chosen country. This group of Australian Great Grand Masters has been amazing. This has been a real team, no stand-out elite players, no showmen, all pulling their weight, all putting in the hard yards for months before, all playing for each other, for the team, and an equally committed band of WAG's in constant support. The tour was master-minded by Ric "Ricstar" Roberts, team manager extraordinaire, his attention to detail second to none. The tournament play was master-minded by Coach "Clacko" Claxton who set us amazing fitness targets, encouraged us, cajoled us, shouted at us when we deserved it, and maybe sometimes when we didn't, but most of all, involved every one of us in the assessment of the plays, moulded us into a team, and inspired us to greater heights. With hindsight, Ric and Bob probably did as much to win the silver medal on that fiasco of a morning of the semifinal, by standing firm against the Dutch organising committee and ensuring that we be awarded our rightful position of first place in Pool A and therefore playing England instead of Netherlands in the semi. And we would have preferred the presence of mind and strength of character of our own umpire Rod Hurst to have been on the ground at the time when we were being told to go off to another pitch at the far end of the stadium to finish off our semi-final against England. The team lead by Captain Doug Truman was always up against it in the final as soon as the Dutch had scored twice in the first quarter with breakaway goals against the run of play. Defender Boonz was a calming influence all tour at the back with the help of "The Don" who, with "Gadget", ran the warm-up sessions and no-one mentioned the ......... as we did our dynamic leg work with the goose step ! Keith Chay of the silky stick skills wove his magic on the field and is still producing his usual cheekiness on the email front in a constant banter with Harps and Cosi. Our two goalies were inspirational at the back, with Cosi pulling off save after save in the last ten minutes against the Brits to keep us in the game when they looked certain to score. Then we had Harps diving this way and that to get us ahead in the one-on-ones and win this pulsating epic semi-final. Our midfielders, Chopper, Thommo, Rocket Rod and Macca were the engine room of the side and ran all day and every day. And every night we had Macca, the walking encyclopaedia holding forth on some erudite topic and educating us lesser mortals while Rod would advise us on the relative merits of wines from around the globe and Lord Simon T, that dresser of sartorial elegance, is a reluctant wearer of fawn trousers to go with his blazer - "but I don't do fawn !!!" - a team man to the last, like the rest of us. And the strikers - Robbo, never known to be short of a word, was belligerence itself, always taking it to the opposition and running the angles with the gentlemanly Paicey the architect of the strikers rotations.
Lunger, doing his i-padding stuff off the ground, and protective padding on the ground, with metres of rock-tape every whichway to stop his legs from falling off, was there with the ever-smiling Tony 'aka Mick' to help them apply the presses on the opposition defence on turnover balls. And on tour it was Tony most often who had found himself in a position to score for the team, pulling off a memorable hat-trick against Belgium back in Hoegaarden. And do we fondly believe that it was the therapeutic beer of the Hoegaarden breweries that produced some magic healing powers to allow our two wounded warriors Gil and Fred to get back on the playing arena. To have them back on the ground and running well in the final games was a tonic to the two of them as well as to the team knowing that all the squad were available to run the rotations off the bench - team physio Nigel, we salute you! Always there, always available, always checking on our well-being, Nigel was one of the 'glues' that held the team together. And finally there was Anton, our travelling Dutch interpreter, guiding us through the language difficulties of the Low Countries and able to liaise with the umpires on the ground - don't know what he said to them but don't think they were discussing the weather ! If anyone was the heart and soul of the team it was Anton on the last two games when his respiratory tract ran foul of some Dutch pathogen - but a cough and a wheeze was not going to keep Anton off any hockey ground with the Great Grand Masters World Cup in the balance. But at the end of the day it was the Dutch who prevailed with the early run of play, coupled with some very tight defence. The final prize may have eluded us but the real winner was this closely bonded unit of men - the team - Team Aussie 65's !!!
Sent from my iPad
18. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
13th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands.
Great Grand Masters Hockey World Cup 2014 - Grand Final v. Netherlands
If semi-final day was a Shakespearian 'Comedy of Errors', we set out in the hope that today's play will be 'All's Well that Ends Well'. After 24 weeks of training, today is the final day of the holy grail of Masters Hockey with the grand final to contest, one last roll of the dice, but the certainty of a medal, silver or gold. Coach Claxton has a 'Midsummer Night's Dream' of double gold, with wins to us and to daughter Jane and the Hockeyroos. He reminds us that there is no tomorrow, to leave nothing in the tank by the end of the game, that pain is a short term thing but victory lasts for ever. We have to wake up early as our team bus is due to collect us from our hotel an hour earlier than previously scheduled. This seems bizarre as it means that we will be waiting around at the ground for three hours before our match against the Netherlands is due to start. Apparently our team management is unable to influence a change as it was already cast in stone by our Dutch hosts - a funny thing, come to think of it, we just happen to be playing them in the final ! The hockey stadium is teaming with teams, players, games everywhere, gold medal games, bronze medal games, games for minor placings, even for thirteenth and fourteenth place. The clock ticks to twelve thirty, we're on the park, off and running. One minute in and the Mollydooker Dutchman throws a long overhead pass. It bounces awkwardly for our defender, ball is picked up by the running forward and with the Aussie defence eliminated he draws the goalie, lays off the pass and Netherlands go one ahead. The Dutch are marking tightly all round the ground but the Aussies work forward and win a penalty corner, hoping to equalise but the goalkeeper is up to the mark and saves well. Into the last minute of the opening quarter and the Dutchmen break away quickly with the long pass, the Aussie defence is spreadeagled again and we're two behind. It's morale sapping stuff but it's Measure for Measure, with all the Aussie team putting up an incredible effort winning two-thirds of the possession, many circle penetrations, but with shots that go just wide of the post, with deflections narrowly missing the mark, with the strikers all closely marked by two or three Dutch defenders. We keep winning penalty corners - about fourteen in all but are unable to convert, with the Dutch defensive wall impenetrable. With the Aussies throwing everything at them bar the kitchen sink, the Dutch score a lucky goal late in the game. The final score does not reflect the closeness of the contest, but it is Gold for Netherlands and Silver for Australia. For the Dutch the play is 'As You Like It' , for the Aussies it's 'Clacko's Labours Lost'.
We retire to the team dinner for the finale - appropriate toasts are drunk to Coach Bob Claxton, Manager Ric Roberts, Team Physio Nigel Friend & Team Umpire Rod Hurst. But the 'Comedy of Errors' is back - at one table we order a bottle of "Peter Lehmann" and three glasses. The Dutch waitress appears to understand Gil's English pronunciation and returns with a large jug of "bitter lemon" and three glasses (think about it. !!!)
Netherlands O/65's 3 - Gold Medal
Australia O/65's 0 - Silver Medal
17. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
11th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands.
Act 2. Scene 1.
The curtain goes up for the penultimate performance. The English Captain calls for three cheers for the Aussies and President Truman responds. Gadget is playing the understudy role today, as our Friendly Physio is keeping him on ice for the Grand Finale tomorrow. The scene opens with Australia in possession of the ball, making all the plays. We're up in attack pressing, winning three penalty corners in quick succession and, from the third of these, Neil "Chopper" Sue See hammers the ball a foot inside the left post. The England goalie, an avid England soccer fan as a ten year old during the 1966 World Cup, emulates a spectacular Gordon Banks save deflecting the ball wide of the post, receiving the plaudits of his teammates. The Aussie attacks are finally repelled and, after a quick breakaway to the other end, it is the turn of goalie John "Harps" Harper who is forced to make a telling save. The Aussies have a lot of the ball, but it's the turnovers that are proving costly with the fast English strikers producing some gaping holes in the Aussie defence which leads to the first score of the match. England are ahead by a goal at the first turn and, for the first time in the tournament, Team 65 Australia is trailing in a match. The coach is ropeable, steam is coming out of his ears. We come out firing in the second quarter, strikers Paicey, Robbo and Tony are applying an effective press when the ball is turned over. We're moving the ball around the park with more intent and Chopper passes down to the attacking right where Simon "Lunger" Williams brings the ball into the circle and causes the opposition to infringe. The blistering penalty corner strike from Keith Chay rattles the backboards just inside the right post and the game is all tied up.
Act 2. Scene 2.
The game is in the balance as the teams run out at the start of the third quarter. Midfielders "Thommo", "Makka", "Fiery" Fred and "Rocket" are working tirelessly. It's the same format as before, with the Aussies holding much possession of the ball and attacking hard, but the English defence remains impenetrable. Honours are even at the beginning of the fourth quarter with both teams searching for the winning score. We're into the last five minutes and the Englishmen are, all of a sudden, carving up the Aussie defences with The Don, "Boonz" and Anton all fighting a rearguard action. And then comes Neil "Cosi" Coster who brings off a hat-trick of spectacular saves to keep us in the game. The whistle blows, it's full-time and all tied up at one goal apiece, so it's now to a one-on-one shoot out.
Act 2. Scene 3.
The final act. The audience hold their breath for the final curtain to go up. The finest example of bureaucratic ineptitude is about to unfold. On the w(h)im of the Tournament Director, the teams are being asked to vacate the pitch and disappear down to the sand-based pitch on the periphery of the hockey grounds and play the one-on-ones on the "beach", so that they can make up for the time delays on the premier turf earlier in the day.
The Play of the Day started with the Comedy of Errors, was followed by the Drama, and has now turned into the Farce. The Anglo-Australian alliance stands firm with the respective team managers and coaches rock solid in advising the tournament officials that neither team is leaving the field until there is a result. Play is resumed, one goalie and five strikers are appointed by each team captain. Gadget goes into bat for the Aussies, drags the goalie left and turns to his right, he scores. England reply and goalie John "Harps" Harper is beaten, one all. Rod "Rocket" Dyson goes next and cool as a cucumber makes no mistake but so does No.2 for the Poms. "Chopper" Neil just beats the clock and makes no mistake and we're ahead 3 - 2 after Harps makes a wonderful save to deflect the ball past the defending left post. Barry "Baz" Paice fails to convert but Harps keeps us in front by one. Winton "Boonz" Inkster steps up to the plate - a conversion will seal the game for the Aussies but he is beaten by the clock as it ticks past eight seconds. The crowd are on the edge of their seats as English striker "Santa" steps forward. He takes off at speed moving to the right, Harps goes with him, they stop, "Santa" goes further right, he fires at goal from an impossibly tight angle - the ball rattles the attacking left post and many in the crowd think he has tied up the game but the ball hits the outside of the post and rebounds into the field of play and all the Aussies leap into the air in unison - it's an epic Ashes victory !!!
England O/65's 3
Australia O/65's 4 (Goal Scorers - K.Chay, K.Jervis, R.Dyson, N.Sue See)
16. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
11th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands.
Masters Hockey World Cup 2014 - Semi-Final v. England
Act 1. Scene 1.
6.50 a.m. - any reasonable person should still be in a deep slumber - the phone rings - still dreaming, in a different world. Still ringing, too sleepy to think straight - if it's between and seven in the evening , then it is probably telemarketers so you let the phone keep ringing. Phone's still ringing, better answer it, might be that your elderly mother's taken ill. No, in fact it is team manager Ric ...... the semi- final match is now at nine o'clock, not twelve thirty and team bus is leaving at 7.30am. Panic, duck in the shower, no time for a shave, grab the hockey gear, where's the rock tape ? drink bottle ? change of clothes after the game ? Yep, got everything. Speed downstairs, no time for breakfast, too late anyway, grab a banana to eat on the run, on the bus and we're off to the ground. Damn, forgot the towel, can "air-dry" after the post-game shower. We are informed that we have finished second in our pool, not first, but we don't understand - my eight year old grandson could do the addition and subtraction in order to work out the goal difference correctly.
Act 1. Scene 2.
So we arrive at the the ground to find that we are now playing our semi-final v. the Dutch. But, hang on a minute, the Germans are here too, they apparently haven't been told about any change. The Germans are unimpressed, having arrived to play the early game, so some of them head back to their hotel to pass the time. We complete our on-ground warm-up only to be told "No, sorry, we forgot to add in your last result, you're not playing now after all, we made a mistake, we didn't add in your last score" ( which just happened to be a 5-0 win). I'm sorry we made a mistake, I'm sorry we made a mistake - this is becoming a bit Fawlty Towers-ish, Waldorf salads, he's from Barcelona, and all that sort of stuff!!!! Dutch team are waiting to start, but now the half of the pissed off German team that had pissed off home, have to be recalled, making them even more pissed off than before. It's an absolute schimozzle, a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
Act 1. Scene 3.
Meanwhile, Manager Extraordinaire Dr Ric Roberts and Coach Bob Claxton, having taken a resolute stance with the Tournament Director over the issue of the final placings, now proceed with some tough negotiations on behalf of the team to gain us access to the more peaceful and comfortable Officials lounge upstairs, as well as arranging breakfast for us, given that there was no time for any food before the departure for the hockey club. Coach uses this time to assist us in coming to terms with any ill-feeling towards the Dutch organisation, helping us to focus on the game ahead which is now against England ........ which is, in fact, what we all thought in the first place !!! Clacko's final enterprising game to sharpen us up prior to taking to the field, is to toss an ever-increasing number of Hockey balls from one team member to another who will catch the ball, help quicken our reflexes and improving on-ground calling. "Fiery" Fred accidentally receives two balls to try to catch simultaneously, with one ball splitting his upper lip and requiring sutures. Fred's not saying anything - he can't, his mouth is taped !
(To be continued)
15. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
9th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands.
Masters Hockey World Cup 2014 - Game 4 v. Italy
Buongiorno ! Ciao ! Today we play the Italians hockey team. Australia already has the psychological edge with Danny Ricciardo flying round the Montreal track to win the Canadian F1 Grand Prix ahead of the red Ferrari's - "Bravo, Ricciardo - buonissimo !!! " We bus across the city, then the usual trek to the ground on a warm humid afternoon. The little 7 year old girl in the orange dress across the fence who mimicked us delightfully as we were doing our warm-down exercises yesterday is not in evidence today as we start our warm up. The Italian team are also nowhere to be seen. We think they may be busy attending to their smart attire from Milano's menswear fashion house of Caraceni in order to win the applause running onto the ground. Today, Makka is given the day off to assist his back problem to recover, and "Gadget" also has a relatively light run. The whistle blows and we're off and running, the Aussies press forward early but the ball is turned over. It's the turn of the Italians who move into their attacking half, but the midfielder seems to think he is Daniele de Rossi. and proceeds to pass the ball with his feet. From the free hit we move the ball forward, down to the right corner flag, the precision pass from Anton at two metres from the baseline is fired Iike a tracer bullet perpendicularly across the ground and, at the left post is Tony "Mick" Rodgers who unerringly sweeps it into the goal for the opening score. "The Don" is dominating at the back with "Boonz" and Gillie, and the midfield of "Rocket", "Thommo", Captain Doug Truman and Chopper are taking it to the opposition. Keith Chay is weaving his magic and mesmerising the Italians with his stick work and is carrying the ball towards the circle. The attack is blocked but the ball falls to Tony near the spot and it's number two for him and the team. The second quarter is much like the first, with multiple Aussie attacks and, when Rocket fires from the top of the circle, it's man of the moment Tony who is once again on the spot to angle the ball into the net for his hat trick of international goals. As we resume three goals in front at the long break, Keithy Chay is back doing his clever fiddling around with the ball near the attacking right corner flag, much to the exasperation of the Coach who wishes the ball transferred away from the area of congestion, back and around to attack from the other direction. Steam is coming out of his ears and he is even rumoured to have been seen slamming his white board on to the ground. We hit a flat spot with a scoreless third quarter, but are able to lift the intensity in the last, with some telling entries into the attacking twenty-five by "Fiery" Fred Carter leading to the fourth goal being a direct hit from around the hot spot by Keith "Robbo" Robertson. And it's Robbo again who is at the left post to deflect a well worked penalty corner into the goal for number five. With the Welsh dragons holding the Germans to a two goal deficit, the 5-0 win puts the Aussies on top of Pool A and into the Semi- Final game against the Poms who finish second to our Dutch hosts in Pool B. The entree is completed, the main course is yet to come. Coach Claxton is seen with a grin on his face as we retire to the beer tent to foster good relations with the Italians .... To say nothing of the rehydration factor !!!
Italy O/65's 0
Australia O/65's 5 (Goal Scorers - T.Rodgers (3), K. Robertson (2) )
14. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
8th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands.
Masters Hockey World Cup 2014 - Game 3 v. Germany
A grey, overcast, drizzly morning in The Hague. The Dutch weather forecasters don't seem to be any better than anywhere else in the world. There's a bucketload of sport on the world arena this week and next week - Derby Day in Engand won by a horse called Australia (trained in Ireland but they're good at that, as well as drinking in the pubs), French Open Finals at Roland Garros, F1 racing in Montreal, U.S. Open golf later this week at Pinehurst, World Cup soccer about to start and, oh yes, there's some other hockey going on here just up the road in The Hague - but where else would you want to be than HC Klein Zwitserland for the Masters Hockey World Cup ?!!! The time has come to do battle with the Germans. General Claxton marshall's his troops in the dugout before the opening campaign. Today's code word is Intensity. We open up with all guns blazing and are deep into enemy territory in the first quarter. The German defensive battery has developed the subtle shoving, bumping game into a fine art form. Robbo is giving as good as he gets, bringing the ball into the circle on the right and fires a missile with the ball seemingly heading for the top left corner of the net until the goalie leaps to his right to deflect the ball away with a goalkeeping save of which Mark Schwarzer would have been proud. The German Stormtroopers are firing the long cannon out of defence but do not seriously penetrate as much of the ball is picked off by the Aussie midfield. They try to throw the lifted overhead from just inside their half but the fearless Paicy, under enemy fire, runs straight at 'Fritz', sustains an injury to his hand and is sure to be mentioned in dispatches, perhaps even a V.C. - and, given that he comes from Melbourne, a 'Victorian' Cross seems appropriate. In fact the only cross is the one that comes into the circle and the Germans infringe - penalty corner. The ball comes out, the trap is made and Chopper buries the ball into the back of the net. One up at the main break, we slip into some ill discipline in the third quarter. Paicy is yellow-carded and in the sin bin for five minutes following a tackle considered to be 'not cricket' by the umpire but, as the Germans don't play the game, that's irrelevant. What is more relevant is that within two minutes Don, who claims not to have been benched since he was fifteen, is green-carded for we know not what. Suddenly we only have nine on the park and the ball is turned over. The German cavalry attacks down the left flank, the Aussie defences have run short of troops and the Germans score a lucky goal. The intensity picks up as we get manpower back on the ground. The enemy defenders are using the body to nudge, bump and whatever else, but as soon as the boot is on the other foot, we have the academy award of the year stuff as the German central defender sprawls on the ground claiming all sorts of foul play. Apparently he has diplomatic immunity from the umpires, which is not extended to Baz who is benched for the second time after making a flying tackle and stealing the ball which is obviously not playing the game. The only problem with this is that Chopper Neil was already on the bench after his own brush with officialdom ! We're back to nine players but Robbo up front is right in the heat of battle giving as good as he gets to the extent that we are lucky not to be down to eight. It's trench warfare now as we hold out another German attack, down to the last minutes - numbers are back to ten when, cleverly camouflaged in his bright yellow Aussie playing shirt, lurks Thommo who makes a brilliant intercept and brings the ball into the circle, is about to strike but there's a German tackle. The ball is still with Thommo who sees the goalie coming towards him of the line so passes to the left post. Robbo is about to score when he is crudely taken out by a defender, the umpire's hand goes up, penalty stroke ! The lot falls on the shoulders of Keith Chay to convert but, in an act of great Aussie diplomacy, he allows the goalie to make the save. It's a drawn game but, with the chance of both countries going through, it is possible that there could be another encounter, but "don't mention the.............", although Basil got away with it once !
Germany O/65's 1
Australia O/65's 1 (Goal Scorer - Neil Sue See)
13. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
7th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands.
Masters Hockey World Cup 2014 - Game 2 v. Wales
We wake to blue sunny skies and the prospect of 26deg.C . Should be good for Aussies but not sure that the boyo's from down the Welsh valleys will have played too many hockey games in this weather. Breakfast is done and we retire to the Conference room where Coach Claxton has a different sort of T CUP for us - Total Control Under Pressure. Apparently if we drink enough T out of the CUP we will need Bob's diuretic mnemonic 4P's - Position, Possession, Participation, and Patience. Our selfless coach has risked major injury yesterday, climbing the Video tower to take film of the Wales / Italy game so we have inside information before we leave for the ground. Robbo selflessly arranged for wife Liz to take a short trip back to the U.K. in order to visit South Wales, ostensibly to see family, but rumour has it that she is actually an under-cover agent planted to acquire intricate details of Welsh Masters Hockey tactical game plans !!! Today the bus is on time and the driver takes us on the scenic route to the ground, past ducks and cows and green fields and canals. It is the antithesis of yesterday's journey as we arrive with almost three hours to spare before the start of our game and for most it is premature to retire to the beer tent !!! It seems today that our Dutch hosts may have misread our schedule as we run onto a ground that appears that it might actually be the sand at Scheveningen, although the beach party is not scheduled until Wednesday ! Our Welsh opponents in their traditional red shirts set up a defensive wall with a degree of physicality that the Welsh rugby team keep in reserve for the Wallabies visiting Cardiff Arms Park and the Millenium stadium. It is a torrid affair with many Aussie penetrations into the attacking twenty-five but only half of these ending up in the circle, such was the tenacity of the Welsh defence. We finally win a penalty corner, the ball comes out, trapped, Chopper Neil pushes left, ball comes back and moved to the right where Tony, who is skulking around near the spot, sweeps the ball home and we're one up. The deadlock is broken, we have control of the game, the ball is moved around through the defence and midfield, and back again. It seems like a game of chess, though Coach Claxton would like to see the boys on their bikes and take on the Welsh dragons more incisively. Wales hit a long ball well down into their attacking twenty-five with the ball going over the right side-line. There is a brief moment of panic as Aussie player Keith (we have three Keith's in the team and your scribe is not prepared to divulge which one ...... but we all know anyway !!!), hears the goalie call for the ball so takes a rapid free hit to the top of the defensive circle - goalie arrives for the kick down field. There is a brief moment of panic as the goalie (we have two but I'm not prepared to divulge that either, as one is the Vice-Captain) steps out feeling a million dollars and makes a deft pass like Ronaldo, only problem is that the pass is directly to the opposition forward who somehow manages to put his shot comfortably wide of the left post. Into the second half and the Welsh are rarely to be seen in the Aussie defensive half of the field. We win a further penalty corner. Robbo injects the ball to the top of the circle and this time it is moved outside the left post where the flying Robbo sweeps the ball home. We're two up and then it is a hard slog to the finish line against a team who have marked up tight in defence all day, and continue to repel our multiple forays into the circle.
Wales O/65's 0
Australia O/65's 2 (Goal Scorers - T.Rodgers, K. Robertson)
12. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
6th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands.
'D' Day' 6th June, seventy years since the Allied Expeditionary Force landed in Normandy, just 400 miles down the coast from where we are now in Den Haag. We reflect on the thousands of lives lost to ensure freedom from tyranny. Today we have a lay day, no game. We arrive at Klein Zwitserland Hockey Club to observe the play of other teams. It is ironic that, on this day in history, we have teams from England & Wales, Scotland, Australia & New Zealand, Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, playing hockey with teams from Germany, Italy and Japan, all bonding together by participation in the game that we love, and fostering improved international relations.
1. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
5th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands.
Masters Hockey World Cup 2014 - Opening Day
We're here, in The Hague, all ready to go - it's 254 days since we were standing in the Olympic Hockey Stadium on a Saturday afternoon in the Sydney sunshine hearing our names called out for selection in Team 65's. Physio Nigel Friend has been working hard to have all eighteen players fit and running for the opening game v. South Africa. Coach Bob Claxton addresses the players at the pre-match team briefing. He brings an air of calmness, projecting an air of encouragement to all, to have 100% confidence in each other, a belief in the group, that we can do it,
Bob is quietly, and unassumingly, inspirational. We're bonded, we're a team, ready to go. In fact, we're ready to go as soon as the bus arrives at 10.30 a.m. but, as 11.30 a.m. ticks by, there's still no bus. We edge a little further down the hotel steps scanning for any likely vehicles on the horizon, while Team Manager Ric Roberts is also becoming distinctly edgy. Finally the bus arrives, supporters and players load their gear and board at lightening speed - well, not quite as quick as the Red Bull team can change Danny Ricciardo's tyres at the F1 circuit but reminiscent, at least, of Simon Thomson's fastest time in sinking a yard of ale at the pub in Tunbridge Wells !!! We hit the road but it's 14 roundabouts later before we are on the highway. The minutes tick by, we're stuck in a traffic jam in downtown Den Haag, blood pressures are rising, the cool, unflustered start to the day has gone out of the window. Will we make it to the ground in time for the start, given the 15 minute walk to the ground, down the steps and around ? The bus-driver comes up trumps, escapes the traffic queues and finds his way down the narrow lanes to the main entrance. The birthday song for Anton marks a very special day in his life. We're down the hill to the ground with little time to spare and, in synchrony with the start of our warm-up comes the start of the rain. Whether the weather has any connection with Cosi's remarks back in Barcelona at the cathedral and the ensuing thunderstorm but, like Manuel, "we know nothing". However, the lady Supporters of Team 65 are made of sterner stuff, out in the thick of it, weathering the weather and cheering us on!!! We're off and running in the opening game v. South Africa, and two minutes in, Simon "Tommo" Thomson makes a critical tackle in the midfield and launches an attack down the left, he links with Barry "Paicey" Paice, the ball comes across just outside the spot and there is Tony "Mick" Rodgers to sweep the ball into the goal. The 'Boks are rattled and having to use the long bomb shot to try to clear their defence thanks to some good presses from Keith "Robbo" Robertson and "Flying" Fred Carter. Robbo is soon in attack and is felled coming into the circle but the umpire is unmoved, no short corner. In a moment our Robbo is back and, receiving the ball, runs on a tight angle from the left and fires an Exocet missile of a shot that whistles past the right post and the South Africans escape. Our defence and midfield are controlling the game, with Donald "Big Don" Richards, Gil Voysey, Keith Chay and Winton "Boonz" Inkster linking well with Neil "Chopper" Sun See and Rod "Rocket" Dyson to produce what one spectator was later heard to say was Textbook modern hockey. We show patience but are unable to score again before the half-time break. The rain keeps on relentlessly, blowing into the dugout as Coach has us re-focused for the second half. Last on ground after the break is Keith "Gadget" Jervis is rope able when he cannot find his own stick and, with exasperation, pulls out his spare. Within minutes there's a rattled looking Captain Doug Truman running towards the bench tossing down an unfamiliar stick that he has been using, grabs his own and takes off. Although it will take Gadget a little longer before he is reunited with his favourite stick, Dougie makes his change of equipment look inspirational as he finds himself at the top of the circle and strikes the ball sweetly home to put us two ahead. We're soon back in attack and Lunger wins the ball in a close encounter on the right of the circle, passes to the spot and Tony nails the shot. Aussies are three nil in front before the South Africans mount any meaningful attacks and their three short corner attempts are repelled by goalie John "Harps" Harper and his defensive battery. Into the final quarter, the 'Boks are still playing hard and birthday boy Anton "the Deek" Dekens is unceremoniously floored - in fluent Dutch he makes a polite enquiry to the Umpire as to whether he happens to be watching the same game ? The Umpire provides a firm signal for Anton to assume an immediate level of silence on the pitch. For Anton it is immediately apparent that discretion is the better part of valour and any further dialogue is discontinued !!! We have time for a further attack, up in the circle, where the ball falls to Simon "Lunger" Williams outside the right post. Lunger, seeing the goalie off his line, lifts the ball with calm precision on the tightest of angles behind the defence striking the inside of the far post for the icing on the cake. Our team of dedicated supporters on the touchline, undaunted by the wind and the rain, are cheering wildly. The 'Boks score a lucky goal just before full-time when goalie Neil "Cosi" Coster comes to the top of the circle in a one on one contest only to find that the South African striker does the academy award dive of the century to con the umpire into awarding a penalty stroke.
S. Africa O/65's Masters 1
Australia O/65's 4 (Goal Scorers - T.Rodgers (2), D. Truman, S. Williams)
10. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
4th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands
Opening Ceremony - Rain. Assemble on the grass paddock at the back. A modicum of organisation, until we are invited to line up in teams, then four in a row, then single file. Eventually amble out in seemingly random order. Dutch players line the gate applauding, band is playing - nice! Then disordered chaos, teams seem to be shuffling off the ground through a side gate. We seem to be on the wrong side of the fence, spectators again. Some even head off for more training, called to the bar (so that's why a law degree is so popular !!!). Welcome speeches in the rain, flags are hoisted, Aussie flag at half-mast as we remember the sad passing of the wife of one of our Southern Cross colleagues. Time to call it a day.
9. Over 65's AGGM - 2014 Hockey World Cup
3rd & 4th June 2014 - Den Haag, Netherlands
Hotel Van der Valk in Nootdorp on the outskirts of Den Haag provides palatial sized accommodation compared with the dog box rooms of The Expo back in Leuven. The girls head down to beachside Scheveningen where it is a chilly overcast morning and there are no takers for donning the bathers for a dip in the North Sea. Team 65's bus heads to the hockey ground at Klein Zwitserland HC where we are unceremoniously dumped a kilometre from the ground and embark on a route march along the road, down a flight of steps which would do credit to Jacob's Ladder, along past the market gardens and finally make it to the ground - it's well endowed with five pitches, of which we sample three, each with a different surface. Some training drills and warm -up games against two Southern Cross teams provide the entertainment for the morning. Then it's back to Nootdorp to shower and dress for the Australian Teams Dinner. The players in green blazers, white shirt and team tie accompanied by the ladies in their finery make a splendid sight. We indulge in a wonderful feast and find it difficult to refuse the accompanying beers and wines which we presume are all part of the training and rehydration programme, given the precedence that has already been set in Hoegaarden !!! The Australian Grand Masters hierarchy make the dinner speeches, presentations are made and our own team members Neil Coster and Ric Roberts receive acknowledgements. Several retire to the bar to maximise the training programme ! Next morning, at breakfast, it is back to the drawing board for some, as we note The Don sitting with a large plateful of cooked breakfast before him, despite the gargantuan three course dinner of last night. When challenged, the Don, with great aplomb, explains it away by remarking "We do a lot of work in defence !!! ". At the team meeting that follows Makka receives accolades for his work behind Bob's camera at Hoegaarden as we watch video of our play in the game v. Belgium. However given that he missed filming your scribe's opening goal of the game, we'll only give him a nine out of ten.