We currently have 19 posts from Mr Rawson down-under...
Thursday was given over to seeing Sydney, probably one of the world's most famous places. Time was spent doing the obvious stuff like taking 800 pictures of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The staff also managed to do a tour of said Opera House and those brave enough (Mr Higson, Gerrard and Rawson) paid $10 to go to the top of one of the bridge pylons.
In the afternoon a lot of shopping took place and "The Bank of Gerrard" almost got to the point of being closed for business!
In the evening we had the end of tour dinner at Wagamamma's, again in Darling Harbour. The food was excellent and, at the end of the meal, a number of presentations were made. The team captains presented some cheeky awards to the staff and the staff resiprocated in kind. Mr Rawson performed a tour poem and finally Mrs Winstanley presented the final gifts of the night to Mr Higson for two years of hard work to pull this whole experience together.
The night finished with plenty of group photographs and a lot of hand shaking, back slapping and hugging.
We will fly home tomorrow. Unfortunately there are no more days to write on this blog. So I will simply finish by thanking those who took the time to read it; It's been quite a lot of fun writing it actually. Thanks also to everyone on the tour but, perhaps most importantly, thank you to everyone at home who did anything and everything to make this tour possible. It almost makes us feel guilty to think about the efforts of parents and QES staff who didn't travel with us but who worked so tirelessly to make this trip of a lifetime happen... like I say: almost!!!
From the moment we had to call two ambulances to the first rugby match, I decided that this is how I wanted to finally end this blog. Now that we've survived and everyone is okay, here is the final and definitive injury list:
Tour Injury List:
Chelsea Woof - Travelled with a sprained ankle.
Beccy Mayne - Recurring problems with a twisted ankle.
Leo Mercer and Martyn Knapton - Pulled groins which required physio.
Jack Ackrigg - Knee injury
Matthew Percy - Suspected concussion after a knee to the head.
Will Heginbotham - Blow to the head, couldn't finsih the match.
Harry Fellows - Torn Neck muscle
Oliver Roberts - Damaged shoulder, suspected trapped nerve.
Leo Mercer - Badly bruised knee.
Tom Speight - Torn disk in his neck.
Jack Dickinson - Dead arm.
Mr Higson - Swollen ankle.
George Close - Badly cut toe.
Sam Lester - Badly cut toe.
Harry Oates - Badly cut toe.
Marcus Nicholson - Badly cut toe.
Grant Smille - Twisted ankle.
Rachel Dawson - Badly twisted ankle.
Mr Rawson - Repetetive strain injury from typing this chuffing list!
After an hour's bus ride to Sydney we had some free time to walk around the city before checking in to our hotel rooms. The staff met up with Mr Flemming who had been in Sydney for about 8 days at that point. We caught up over a coffee and he remarked on how good the blog was (!!!!!)
In the evening most of the party walked to Darling Harbour to find various places to eat. The staff (plus Mr Flemming) found a superb Italian establishment.
Early nights were the order of business after that in preparation for a hectic day of shopping and sight seeing in the morning.
The morning began with training for all three sports. The girls have had the opportunity to play hockey on some superb surfaces this tour but they saved the best for last with Central Coast's 'Tiger Turf' pitch. The boys really came together in the morning as the realisation started to sink in that they would soon be playing the final fixture of the Year 13s QES lives.
With a couple of hours before the games kicked off, we spent lunchtime in an enormous shopping centre down the road from the school. Plenty of silly gifts and souvenirs were acquired (Harry Fellows' Australia sombrero perhaps the silliest!)
The matches began with a tough loss for the hockey team. A 5-2 scoreline didn't really paint the full picture. QES had been 2-1 up at half time and for many of the girls it was their 9th sports fixture in three weeks, having doubled up for both hockey and netball. In netball the tiredness really showed and, despite another battling effort, we were beaten by a rather large score. I must add at this stage though how impressed I have been with our girls' determination and fighting spirit, especially in netball where they have faced some really class opposition.
We expected the rugby match to be an excellent game and also a bit of an emotional occasion. We weren't disappointed on either front. From their favourite move Qes took a slender 5-0 lead after Leo Mercer touched down. Central Coast then piled on the pressure with their huge pack and only the tackle of the tour from Martyn Knapton (holding a player up over the line) protected the lead going into half time. In the second half it remained very close until Liam Cleary managed to put Leo through a a gap in the centre to stretch the lead to 12-0. Almost immediately however, Central Coast came back with a try from one of their forwards. It was as though this was the spark for our lads though. Two more tries from Martyn Knapton and Player of the Tour George Close sealed a magnifiscent win against our toughest oppositon on tour.
At the end of the match the emotion spilled over and a number of the players (and the staff) actually shed a few tears as we realised that two years of hard work and training had not only come to fruition, but had been worth every second.
The evening was spent with host families again and the staff were treated to a meal out by our counterparts from the school.
The party flew to Newcastle and were met by Central Coast Grammar. Central Coast is a very impressive school and probably has the best facilities we have seen so far. They were also the most organised hosts we have had and immediately gave an impression of efficiency. In addition, they practically fell over themselves to greet us and make us feel welcome. It was an extremely encouraging, if slightly intimidating, experience considering we would be playing three fixtures against them the following day!
In the evening the tourists spent time with their new hosts in various luxurious homes around Newcastle. The staff found a Thai restaurant near the motel. With the final fixtures of the tour taking place the following afternoon, another early night was on the cards.
A free day in Mackay was spent in various ways depending upon host families. Activities included tubing (sliding down a hill in an inner tube), sugar cane harvesting, shopping and sight seeing.
The staff had an excellent meal with Dave Longley and Jo Jackson's hosts from three years ago.
An early start was needed to get the tour party to Airlie Beach for our latest excursion, Ocean Rafting. This had been one of the most popular outings on the last tour three years ago and it didn't disappoint.
The ocean rafts are like large speed boats with inflatable sides and hold about 28 people. The drivers talk about "5 levels," level one being flat water at high speed and with sharp turns. Level 5, as we found out later, was in a part of the sea known as 'God's Washing Machine,' where the waves were huge and the wind was at its strongest.
During the trip we also did a bush walk to a viewpoint over Whitehaven beach. We then had lunch on this beach, where the sand is so pure that it squeaks and is so white that it never gets hot. This is also the sand that is used to make the glass for the space shuttle because of its purity.
On the return journey there was the chance to go snorkelling amongst masses of fish. At the second snorkelling site a number of the party became freaked out by some harmless jellyfish (Sam Chesney-Benson particularly) and were labelled 'whinging poms' by the boat crew.
As we returned to the centre, one boat were lucky enough to see a whale surfacing, if you don't believe us, Nicola Benson has photographic evidence!
Most agreed that this had been the best day of the tour so far.
The transfer to Mackay included a bus journey through seemingly endless sugar cane fields for most of the tourists. Meanwhile, Mr Rawson collected Tom from the hospital and made the journey by plane. All went to plan and everyone met up at Mackay's St Patrick's College where the boys were immediately whisked away for their next fixture.
In a much improved performance the rugby lads were victorious 19-8 with tries from Jordan Field (2) and man of the match Alfie Gerrard.
The hockey team were given a much harder test and did well to earn a 1-1 draw (Charlotte Bunting making a number of crucial saves in goal).
In the netball we were up against a side who, in the previous season, played two divisions higher than Ryan College who had beaten us in the last game. Once again our girls showed a lot of spirit and even went 2-0 up in the opening exchanges. Unfortunately, St Patrick's then turned on the class and racked up a huge score with some very impressive netball.
For the first and only time on tour, the players met their billets after the matches during the post game barbecue.
The hockey had been moved to Thursday so that the girls didn't have to play twice in a day. That didn't start until 16:00 though, so the tourists enjoyed a relaxing and recuperative morning on Townsville's Strand. A little bit of shopping and sunbathing seemed to help everyone recharge the batteries and recover from yesterday's disappointments in the sporting arenas.
Proof of that was in further evidence in the afternoon as the girls put in a dominant performance, winning the hockey 7-1!
Everyone departed from the Murray Hockey complex for their final night in Townsville. The staff spent the evening with the Ryan College staff enjoying a splendid meal at the Brewery pub in Townsville city centre (a pub that they regard as 'their Orange Tree!')
Training in the morning went relatively well. The start time for the netball moved forward it left us with a lot of waiting around time but not enough time to do anything constructive.
The netball began just before lunch and positive support was offered by the whole party. Unfortunately a very strong Ryan side were too good for our girls and, despite a spirited performance, we went down 23-9.
In the afternoon the boys had a similarly tough match against a combined Ryan/Ignatious Park side. Despite scoring first, QES eventually lost 19-10. Further worry followed as Tom Speight became the latest injury concern. The third ambulance of the tour was needed after he suffered a neck injury in the final scrum of the game.
(He has since rejoined the party and is in good spirits despite needing to wear a neck brace for a torn disc).
The post match hospitality included a barbecue before tourists all dispersed with their hosts.
A well deserved day relaxing on the beach after some tough matches and plenty of activity in the last few days.
Just as some of the injured are starting to recover, three of our rugby lads decided to split their toes open on various rocks, flags and fittings in a series of freak accidents. Don't worry mums, Miss Pakeman was on hands with dressings and bandages and Marcus, Sam Lester and Harry Oates are fine, if a little embarrassed.
The staff took a short walk to the beautiful Radical Bay and Balding Bay (but not before taking a photo of Mr Gerrard's head in front of the sign for the latter).
After a strenuous (!) day on the beach we returned to the hotel for a final swim and shower before catching the ferry back to the mainland.
We received a warm welcome from Ryan School and are now with billets for the next two days. Another match day is upon us tomorrow when the girls will play netball and the boys will play rugby against Ignatious Park in the afternoon.
The reef trip began at 6:30 a.m. That meant that some of the tourists had to be up at 5:00 a.m. and I am pleased to report to all parents that yes, the kids can get up at that time when they need to!!!
The trip to the reef was (apparently) the calmest outing in three weeks for the company we hired to take us. Miss Pakeman would disagree (enough said!)
The reef itself was one of those truly memorable experiences and is one of the reasons we chose Australia as our destination. The tourists has the opportiunity to see clams, starfish, octopus, even sharks first hand (as well as most of the characters from Finding Nemo!) It was a truly beautiful and exhilerating experience that really has to be seen to be believed.
The return journey took us to Magnetic Island (just off the coast of Townsville) where we were welcomed at the All Seasons resort.
In the evening, some tourists enjoyed a swim in the pool before dinner and watched as the hotel staff fed the kookaburras and other birds of prey... by hand!
A delicious evening meal and an early night followed.
The matches against Cathedral differed wildly in their fortunes.
First up, the hockey girls pulled off a massive 8-1 win. Abby Bland was the hero with 4 goals!
Unfortunately the netball was a different story as our girls went down 23-9 in high winds and against a classy Cathedral side.
In the rugby it was close from the outset with both sides exchanges scores. Multiple tries at both ends made a superb match to watch but in the end Jack Dickinson's four tries (yes four!) were enough to squeak us to a 2 point victory 27-25.
The matches were followed by barbequed sausages and the exchanging of gifts.
Everyone spent a last night with their Cathdral School billets before travelling to the reef and Magnetic island the next day.
Not much to report for Saturday as we decided that, since Saturday is not a school day, we would give the tourists a free day with their host families to see Townsville.
Many were taken up the local hill (Castle Hill) to see the whole of the city. Some were taken down 'The Strand,' a series of bars and eateries which form the beach front.
Matchday 2 tomorrow. I am sure we will hear all the stories then!
After saying goodbye to our hosts we returned to Brisbane airport to fly to Townsville and meet our new billets from Cathedral school.
Cathedral stands in a lovely location and the students met up with their new host families under the shade of an enormous rain tree.
The weather is even better in Townsville and I am sure we will be enjoying more swimming and water sports at some point despite the fact that the locals say it is winter and too cold to swim!!!
The most difficult job for the staff on game day was keeping a lid on all the building excitement!
After a morning training session the whole party spent an afternoon on the beach. A number of people, including Mr Gerrard, Mr Higson and Mrs Winstanley, signed up for surf lessons. The rest of us body surfed, swam, sunbathed and played ultimate frisbee for three hours.
Finally it was game time. The girls kicked us off with a fabulous 2-0 win with goals from Emily Byle and Abby Bland. The netball was very close and, despite being behind by 7 points at one stage, our girls won by three in the end.
The rugby was a physical encounter which we eventually scraped 15-14 with tries from Grant Smille and Leo Mercer and a sensational winning kick from Liam Cleary which he knocked over from 40 yards with 2 minutes to go!
The rugby was not without incident however. Matthew Percy sustained a blow to the head and Harry Fellows has strained his neck. Both boys were taken to hospital and received excellent care and treatment. Harry was released from hospital that night and Matthew the following morning. Both boys have rejoined the tour and are as well as can be expected. Thanks must be extended to the Matthew Flinder's staff and parents who helped us cope with that situation.
On Wednesday the staff started the day with an invigorating dip in the ocean at 6:30 a.m (!!!)
We met for another training session at Matthew Flinders where the girls had the chance to use the netball surface they would be playing on. The boys had another successful session in preparation for tomorrow's games.
In the afternoon we all visited Australia Zoo. Plenty of pictures of wombats, koalas and kangaroos were taken. Hilight of the day? Sam Lester's monkey impression during the Crocodile exhibition!
When we arrived back at Matthew Flinders we had the chance to watch their boys play aussie rules, a game they won despite low expectations.
Everyone was beginning to get excited about tomorrow's matches.
Tuesday began with our first day of training.
The boys had the use of the sports centre's 3G American Football pitch and participated in a very successful first session in the Australian heat.
The girls were transported to a local astro turf and also enjoyed a successful session.
There was time for a swim in the 50m outdoor pool (!) before lunch, which was eaten whilst spectating on an American Football match between New Zealand and a select USA team.
Unfortunately the morning was not without incident and two players received physio from the centre's specialist team. Nothing major to worry about and we are confident that both Leo and Martin will be able to play when it comes to the competitive fixtures.
At 1:30 we took another coach journey to meet up with Matthew Flinders school. The kids all met their billets and the staff departed to the Caribbean resort in Mooloolaba after an accomodating welcome from the Matthew Flinders staff.
Finally arrived in Oz after what seemed like forever and a day!!! After collecting our luggange in Brisbane airport we still faced a 1 hour coach journey to The Sports Super Centre on the Gold Coast. We arrived at about midday local time and quickly set about strategies to stay awake and avoid the jet lag.
After finding our rooms in two lodges within the complex we had a quick run around with some ball games before setting off to White Water World, a funpark featuring slides and wave machines etc. One such ride was an eight lane race. Higson won the staff race due to the fact he was the heaviest and Williams lost despite trying to cheat at the start!!!
We returned to the sports centre where the kids socialised with members of others schools from various other countries including some footballers from New Zealand. After a few games of volleyball (on the sand based courts directly outside the apartments) and a buffet dinner, most of the party had retired and were sound asleep by 10 p.m.
Australia is a very long way!!!
The plane journey was completed in three stages: Manchester to Abu Dhabi - 6 hours, Abu Dhabi to Singapore - 7 hours, Singapore to Brisbane - 7 hours.
We'd already given a lot to arrange this tour, now we were preparing to lose a day of hour lives in the time difference!
Etihad looked after us though and kept us plied with drinks and "food" (if you can call the stuff you get on planes food!)
Still, after flying for what seemed like forever we were starting to hope that Australia was worth it!