Home and away: a sporting odyssey from South Wales to Australia.
On 22 July 2013, 46 hockey, netball and rugby players – cheered on by six enthusiastic teachers – left South Wales to begin a three-week sports and sightseeing adventure on the other side of the world. The trip was the brainchild of Dean Mason, a teacher at Gowerton School in Swansea, and organised by Edwin Doran Sports Tours.
The tour began with a three-day stop in Hong Kong, where the travellers were struck by the heat, humidity and warm hospitality. In netball, the girls scored the first victory of the tour – albeit on a technicality. Their match was cancelled due to heavy rain, but the team coach assured them that, in netball rules, this was considered a win, as the home team couldn’t fulfill the fixture.
But real victory was soon Gowerton’s in rugby. While the opponents showed steely determination, the Welsh team’s superior game shone through. The female referee, Gabriella, had just returned from refereeing in the World Cup, making the victory all the sweeter. However, the heat and rain, together with the strong, acclimatised opponents, got the better of the Gowerton girls in their Hong Kong hockey match, where they were beaten 4-1.
The group managed to squeeze in a tramway ride to the Peak, Hong Kong’s highest viewing point, where they enjoyed panoramic views of the harbour and the dramatic skyscrapers. Of course, shopping had to be on the itinerary.
After three days in Hong Kong, the group headed south. They landed in Sydney on Friday 26 July, to begin a 12-day sporting saunter up the east coast. The décor and facilities at The Menzies Hotel in Sydney delighted the weary travellers.
Players relax in Sydney.
The Australian winter proved much more agreeable than a Welsh summer. The sun shone endlessly, so all games and activities went ahead. The teams won the rugby and hockey matches with Mater Maria Catholic College, who visited Gowerton last year. The rugby victory was despite the “distinct physical disadvantage, both in terms of height and weight” of Gowerton’s players, noted Mr Mason, putting the victory down to “outstanding defence”.
Gownton's netball team enjoy a well-matched game and the great playing facilities at Mater Maria Catholic College in Sydney.
The rugby team’s prowess on the pitch continued against Newington College. Despite Mr Mason’s fear that his team would “succumb to the greater power of our opponents” the Welsh team came up trumps, “producing one of its most memorable touring performances in any of its six Southern Hemisphere tours”. Further victories followed against William Cowper and Matthew Flinders schools, giving the rugby team a flawless record.
Gowerton School's rugby team enjoyed their clash with a team from Sydney's Newington College.
Along with their sporting fixtures, the students enjoyed an action-packed sightseeing schedule in Australia: jetboating in Sydney, stroking koalas and feeding kangaroos at Australia Zoo in Brisbane, snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef and white water rafting in Cairns. The group even mingled with the stars. Members of the cast of TV show Home and Away took a break from filming at Palm Beach, alias Summer Bay, to chat to the Gowerton students.
All too soon it was time for the group to head home, with memories of both success and defeat on the sports field, unforgettable sights, new friendships made and old ones strengthened to last a lifetime.