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 !!!
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