International Defence Rugby Competition 2011 'A players view'

With the IDRC now over it is a good time to reflect on the achievements of the tour and the focus and challenges which lie ahead for the forth-coming season. The tour started with the squad being based at RAAF Richmond, which lies about 60 km outside Sydney city centre. With the first game only 4 days away once we arrived the focus was immediately placed on putting together an effective and simple game plan which would enable the new members of the tour to settle into the navy style of rugby, although the opening ceremony for the competition which was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) gave us an opportunity to have a little sneaky look around the sites of the city.

The rugby sessions were well structured and led by CPO (Ash) Coates and with PO "Smokey" Cole constantly providing us with amusing warm ups the morale within the squad was high and we travelled down to Canberra in high spirits, although the cold and damp weather was a little demoralising. Once we checked into our 1980s style motel we went out for a pre-match evening meal, which was kindly, paid for by the RNRU. We were greeted by another cold damp morning and after a short captains run we were off to Viking Park to play the Australian Federal Police. After a nervy opening quarter we soon settled into our stride and after half time led by Ben "Windmill" Priddy who touched down four times we soon ran away with the game, with the try of the game being scored by Jon "Gandhi" Humphreys. After an awesome post match meal watching the English beat the Scots, much to the annoyance of the angry jock Callum McRae we made the three hour coach journey back up to RAAF Richmond.

With the focus now on our next game against an ACT Brumbies XV there was no respite in the training, which was focussed around two rugby sessions and a gym session a day. With the team named we made the shorter journey into Eastwood Rugby Club to face the Brumbies. Having seen their team being named on the official ACT Brumbies website we knew we were in for a tough game. The game started at a frenetic pace with their backrow seemingly appearing everywhere. As a team we never took a step back but the Brumbies simply had too much class. Like everything we were able to take a number of positives away and the debut performance of prop Paz Parry was exceptional. With 10 days now until our quarter final against the Samoans we were given a welcome weekend off. The majority of the lads went to Sydney where we stayed in a luxury backpackers!

After a weekend off the focus was firmly on the quarter final against the Samoan Police Force and having seen them beat the French Combined Services the coaching staff of Ash Coates and Owen Salmon were left under no illusions of
the challenges that we faced. The buzz around the squad was good and with the welcome return of Bi Buininmasi and Stu Mclaren into the starting 15 the team had a good feel. Game day was soon on us and we were pleased to see a nice dry day which we hoped would aid our game plan of running the big Samoans off the park. Having faced their Haka the opening stages of the game saw us start well. But with a lack of clinical edge where we missed a number of key chances the Samoans were soon exerting pressure on our line. The Samoans were big and powerful and after further sustained pressure, they went over for 3 quick tries just before half time, which completely took the wind out of our sails. After a few stern words at half time, we came out and played our best rugby of the tour for the first 10 mins. Unfortunately this was to be our last real phase of dominance with the Samoans physicality taking over we were finally well beaten. This game was a real eye opener to us and the levels of physicality, which we need to bring to our game if we are to have a successful 2012 season. The performance of our Vice Captain Ben Priddy was at times heroic and the impact of new players Hugo Mitchell-Heggs and Dan Albutt was impressive. After the game we made our way to the Sydney Cricket Ground for the closing ceremony and meal.

The final 10 days of the tour has seen us relocate to the suburb of Randwick which is 15 mins from Sydney Centre and 10 mins from Bondi Beach. We have had a re focus phase of the tour which has seen some good IS 2012 preps and team bonding.  The days have been spent with rugby training sessions out on the park and gym sessions under the watchful eye of ‘Smokey' Cole. The lads have shown a real enthusiasm towards the gym time and the time spent over the last 10 days will hopefully save time when we come together as a squad in the New Year. We have also had a number of good training sessions with the New South Wales ARU Rugby Development Officer. Away from the training environment one of the highlights was a team building afternoon spent having a surf lesson at the world famous Bondi Beach. There were a number of impressive surfers with the pick of us being new squad member Nathan Huntley. The tour has been a mixture of highs and lows. Unfortunately the results have not always gone our way but the introduction of some new players and the team spirit forged on a long month away together will hopefully hold us in good stead for the 2012 Inter Service season.